Anastasia Shevchenko’s final statement: stay human, please!

February 9, 2021
Anastasia Shevchenko with lawyers in court. Photo: Gleb Golod for MBK Media

The Rostov-on Don activist Anastasia Shevchenko, who is on trial for collaborating with Open Russia, has made her final statement in court on Monday, February 8. Anastasia – civil activist and bereaved single mother of two – is facing 5 years in jail under Article 284.1 of the Criminal Code, meaning she is an agent of a so-called ‘undesirable organisation’

All of this simply for participating in a public debate and organising a public discussion. Such unrelenting political persecution has led Amnesty International to declare Nastya a prisoner of conscience.

Her sentence will be announced on February 18 at 10:30 a.m. Below is a translation of Anastasia’s statement. You can read original statement in Russian here.

I don’t remember, I can’t remember how many final pleas/statements I have made over the past two and a half years.

I shall start with a little arithmetic. Too bad that the Prosecutor Pushnov, who asked the court to give me five years at the last hearing, hasn’t come here today and has left all his work to the women. Two and a bit years of house arrest plus four years of time in prison minus the time served. That’s over six years in detention. That’s more than the maximum sentence under the Article in question.

If you think house arrest for someone with two kids over two years does not count as punishment, then I’ll tell you what it’s like to be under house arrest with kids. Especially now, when there is a growing number of children under house arrest with their parents, or waiting for their mums and dads who have been locked up in prison camps for their political views. I will tell you how my children were really scared during the search, but they didn’t shed a tear; how my daughter, who is sitting right here, used to smuggle some sweets for me into the bag while I was in the temporary detention facility and how I was not allowed to see my eldest daughter in hospital, no matter how much I begged. How my son would wake up at night screaming for his mother. How my girl turned into an adult at 14, without any teenage transition. How after the prosecutor’s throw away line about a five year sentence, the two of them are now counting the last days with their mother in anticipation of the sentence: stealthily filming me to have something to remember me by, recording my voice. I don’t understand – haven’t you had enough? When will you stop bleeding me to death?

I consider it one punishment on top of another. For two years you have examined and re-examined me: scrutinised my face with a magnifying glass during the portrait examination; scrutinised my sanity in the psychiatric examination, scrutinised every word I said in the linguistic examination, scrutinised all my speeches at meetings in the political examination, scrutinised all my incomes and expenses in the financial examination. Based on these examinations, you have put together twenty-nine volumes of my criminal case. What for?

I have always lived openly and continue to do so. I have blogged about all my life happenings, meetings, trips, acquaintances. I have always declared all my earnings. I have never lied about my political views – I have always defended my position in debates. As for the two administrative cases under the Article on Undesirable Organisations, I consider them a clear example of dirty political manoeuvring. During the debates, as well as at the seminar, I spoke solely in my capacity as a representative of the Russian Open Russia social movement. I believed then, and still believe it now, that an association of Russian citizens cannot be undesirable, and the law on undesirable organisations does not apply to such an association.  The representative of the Prosecutor General’s Office, Mr. Kurennoy, said as much about my position in his interview to the federal media. I strongly oppose the article on undesirable organisations, because I believe that the Prosecutor’s Office cannot illegally prosecute Russian citizens without any grounds.

I have never concealed my involvement in the Open Russia social movement in Russia. On the contrary, I have always proudly talked about it everywhere. I advocate open dialogue between government and society, open debate rather than kicks from the policemen with steamed up visors, open relations with other countries, open and honest business rules, open and proper elections, and open and honest news in the media. What am I guilty of, in that case? I simply want my children and your children to live in a clean and beautiful city, in a country where laws and human rights are respected. In a country without political repression.

Over this period I’ve often heard my persecutors say: ‘You do understand that it is not us? It’s not us, it’s Moscow. We don’t decide anything.’ No, I don’t understand. Adults must take responsibility for their decisions and actions. Otherwise, it’s just like the words of our fellow citizen from Rostov, the singer Basta : ‘Me, I don’t get my hands dirty, I just help the executioner’. Don’t do that. I ask you not to take part in political repression.  I’m not even asking this for myself, I am doing it for you and your children. My final statement is: stay human, please!

In conclusion, I would like to thank my defence lawyers for being my only interlocutors when I couldn’t talk to anyone else. For making jokes when I was sad. For teaching and mentoring me when I didn’t ask you to. I would like to thank the human rights organisations, the Otkrytka Human Rights and all the media who openly covered my case. Many thanks to the people of Rostov for your caring, for your support.  I’ve never been stopped in the street and told by anyone: ‘Here, you are getting what you deserve’. I have always found support, people always came up to me and said, ‘It’s going to be okay. Hold on. We stand by you.’ Unfortunately, there are a lot of these unfair trials in our city at the moment, and so I ask you to do all you can to go to these hearings. This type of support is sorely needed, I know it well. And, of course, I want to thank my family, my children. We shall manage.