Ilya Yashin is the first opposition politician in Russia to be imprisoned for speaking the truth about Russian atrocities against civilians in Bucha. State prosecutors ask for nine years imprisonment followed by a ban on Internet for another four as punishment for comments during a livestream where he discussed how Russian troops murdered and abused the residents of the Kyiv suburb. Russian website Meduza published his last word in the courtroom. He was sentenced to eight and a half year imprisonment.

ilja jasjin in court picture sotaIlya Yashin in court (picture SOTA)

by Ilya Yashin

Your Honor, I’m grateful for the way this trial was organized. You have conducted it publicly, before the press and an audience, without interfering when I wanted to speak or getting in the way of my defense. It might all seem mundane: this is how a court should work in any normal country. But in the burnt field of Russian justice, this process stands out as something that seems alive.

Believe me: I do appreciate this.

I’ll be frank, [judge] Ms. Goryunova: You, too, have made an unusual impression. I noticed your interest in what the prosecution and the defense were saying to you, your way of reacting to my words, and how you sometimes doubt and reflect on things. For the government, you’re a mere cog in the machine designed to do what it’s told. But I see you as a living person who will take off the judge’s robe in the evening to go grocery shopping at the same store where my mom buys her cottage cheese. I am sure that you and I are bothered by the same problems. I’m sure that you are just as shaken by this war as I am, and that you pray for this nightmare to end as soon as possible.

'Better to spend 10 years behind bars as an honest man than to burn silently in shame for the blood shed by your government'

You know, Ms. Goryunova, I have a principle that I’ve been following for many years: Do what you must, and whatever happens, happens. When the war began, I didn’t have a second’s doubt about what I must do. I must be in Russia, I must speak the truth loudly, and I must do everything in my power to stop the bloodshed. I was physically in pain from realizing the number of people dying in this war, the number of broken lives, and of families who lost their homes. This is something we mustn’t put up with, and I swear that I do not regret anything. It’s better to spend 10 years behind bars as an honest man than to burn silently in shame for the blood being shed by your government.

Of course, Your Honor, I don’t expect any miracle to happen here. You know that I’m innocent, and I know that you’re under pressure from the system. It’s obvious that you’ll have to issue a guilty verdict. I have no hard feelings against you, and I don’t wish you anything bad. But try to do everything in your power to prevent injustice. Remember that your decision isn’t only about me and my personal fate — it’s also a verdict on the part of our society that wants to live in a peaceful and civilized way. That part of society might well include yourself, Ms. Goryunova.

I speak to the person responsible for this slaughter

I would like to make use of this lectern to address the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. I’d like to speak to him as the person responsible for this slaughter, the person who signed the 'military censorship' law and whose will it is that I’m now in jail.

Mr. Putin! As you look at the consequences of this monstrous war, you probably realize what a big mistake you made on February 24. No one is greeting our army with flowers. We are called invaders and occupiers. Your name is now firmly associated with death and destruction.

'You have brought terrible misfortune to the Ukrainian people, who will probably never forgive us'

You have brought terrible misfortune to the Ukrainian people, who will probably never forgive us. But you’re not only at war with the Ukrainians. You’re at war with your own people. You send hundreds of thousands of Russians into a combat inferno, and many of them will never come home. They will turn to dust. Many more will be disabled or lose their minds from what they saw and felt. To you, this is just statistics — columns of numbers. But for countless families, this means the unbearable pain of losing husbands, fathers, and sons.

You are taking away the Russian people’s home. Hundreds of thousands of Russians are leaving their home country because they don’t want to kill or be killed. Those people are running from you, Mr. President. Haven’t you noticed that?

'You send hundreds of thousands of Russians into a combat inferno, and many of them will never come home'

You are undermining the foundations of our economic security. By switching the industry to a wartime model, you are sending our country back in time. When tanks and cannons are the priority, people become powerless and poor. Did you forget that this kind of policy leads our country to disintegration?

Although my words might sound like a voice crying in the desert, I’m urging you, Mr. Putin, to stop this madness immediately. You must admit that your policies regarding Ukraine have been an error. You must get the Russian troops out of Ukraine and start working on a diplomatic resolution of this conflict. Remember that every new day at war means new casualties. Enough!

Finally, I would like to say something to the people who followed this trial, supported me all these months, and now anxiously await the verdict. Friends, no matter what the court decision, this shouldn’t break you. I know that you’re having a very hard time, and that you’re pained by a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness. But you shouldn’t lose heart.

'Be courageous, don’t give in to this evil, and resist'

Please don’t give in to despair, and don’t forget that this is our country. It’s worth fighting for. Be courageous, don’t give in to this evil, and resist. Defend your neighborhood. Defend your city. And above all, defend one another! There are many more of us than it seems, and together we are a great force.

Don’t worry about me. I promise to endure all my tribulations without complaint and to make it to the end of this path without losing my integrity. And you — please promise me that you will keep your optimism and don’t forget how to smile. Because the moment we lose our ability to enjoy life will be the moment they win.

Believe me: Russia will be happy and free.

'Believe me: Russia will be happy and free'

Translation: Meduza.

Lees hier een profiel over Ilja Jasjin van Wabke Waaier.