Mikhail Khodorkovsky

The ‘Last Statement’ of Andrey Pivovarov in court

Your Honour!

My lawyers and I have proved in the course of the trial that this criminal case is without merit. There has never been an undesirable foreign organisation Open Russia. There was nothing criminal in my actions. The case against me is an instance of pure revenge for my views and political activities. I should be acquitted even under the completely unconstitutional, repressive Article 284.1 of the Criminal Code. The investigation has failed to fabricate any evidence of my guilt. My case file consists of a testimony from a corrupt NTV Channel spin doctor and a biased ‘expert report’ by a group of pseudo-scientific charlatans who have made a deal with their own conscience and peddle fake PhDs. That is all the investigation has managed to come up with after nearly six months of work and hours of surveillance. This case would not have happened without a political order to isolate me.

For years, the Russian people have been discouraged from following politics, from participating in politics – that is, in their country’s life. The people are being deliberately and systematically plunged into apathy, into a heavy lethargic sleep. Those who refuse to sleep, who want to remain citizens of their country, to have their own opinions, are criminally prosecuted, jailed, forced out of the country and intimidated. In their pursuit of careers and bonuses, men and women in uniform believe that by filing cases they are defending the country, but in fact they are darning the shroud to lay out our future in.

It is getting to the point of absurdity. I’ve recently had a conversation with a member of staff at the pre-trial detention centre. He agreed with everything I said to him: the need for regime change, accountability, real separation of powers, the fight against corruption. However, he felt that he could not make any difference himself and it would be better if I stayed out of politics. Then our conversation turned to his life. He complained about his salary of 32,000 roubles a month. And that is in Krasnodar, which is quite a big city. Add to it the fines that are repeatedly being deducted from the salary and the unpaid overtime. While his mother works as a nursery nurse, earning 16,000 roubles a month.

Over the past twenty years our citizens have been weaned off the simple notion that participation in politics is a guarantee of their rights. That it’s not some people on TV or at a rally who need it, it’s they themselves that need it.

That free elections are the most effective method of combating theft.
That freedom of assembly, of protest is a way for people to unite, show solidarity and stand up for their interests.
That a free press is a guarantee of government transparency, absence of corruption and protection from injustice.

Those in power do not want our citizens to realise that absence of civil rights and poverty are a direct consequence of the absence of competition, opposition, independent media and trade unions in the country. Who will stand up for your rights? Does anyone care about people’s opinions in the absence of elections? The plight of an MP or civil servant does not depend on his efficiency but on his loyalty to his boss.

To finally discourage people from taking an interest in politics, criminal cases are being brought against dissenters. Still, a few thousand political prisoners in a country of many millions may not seem like a big figure. Who gives a damn about what some guy in the cage says. One more, one less. “We’ll get a quick conviction; the investigator will get the promised promotion and we’ll forget about it”. One might even think that the state is fighting against a small group, a marginalised few. But in fact, it is a struggle with the future. People who are now standing up for progress, for a change of government, for an end to hostilities want a better life for our country, a decent future for it. And that is exactly what we are being deprived of. The higher the level of repression and the greater the number of bans, the bigger the chunk of the future they are taking away from us.

I can easily prove my point to you by adducing an example from the recent past. Let us mentally turn the clocks ten years back. Back then, it seemed to many that, at least economically, Russians were feeling quite comfortable. Ten years ago, many people in Russia did not take any notice of the rising tide of criminal cases against opposition figures, the violent crackdowns against rallies, the exponentially increasing power of the security agencies, and the unprecedented election fraud. How could this bother the inhabitants of an oil and gas paradise, that lived off the rent? Do you remember that bright world of cheap flights to the Mediterranean, of foreign cars bought with affordable loans, of shopping in IKEA, of world premieres at your local cinema? Do you remember the era when Russian soldiers did not die in foreign lands?

You imagined then that that vast, rich, pleasure-filled world was immutable. You thought it would always be like this.

Yet we were already saying it: our country had embarked on a dangerous path. We were saying that absence of regime change and its unaccountability do not just lead to corruption and slackness. We said that authoritarianism was a road to the abyss. Our houses were searched. We were arrested. We were gagged. But you know what? History has shown how right we were.

You can see where our country has ended in 2022. You all realise now what an abyss it is heading for.

All that lies ahead are new bans, restrictions and prison cells. This time, with toilets. This is exactly the kind of ‘initiatives’ our MPs and officials boast about. Maybe it is these initiatives, these bans and these truncheons that are undesirable, if they only make our life worse.

That is exactly what I wanted to talk about from a rostrum. Only not from a court rostrum, but from the Duma one. That is why I was prosecuted following a fabricated tale about an ‘undesirable’ organisation.

The truth is more powerful, and it is the truth the repressive machine is afraid of. That is why I am here now, having already served more than a year in a Krasnodar detention centre. Despite this I believe that the situation in our country will change.

Open Russia advocated competition in our society, politics, and the economy. A strong, but democratic state. A country where not just the top brass and the siloviki would have a future, but everyone, and that that future was achievable. There are a lot of honest and decent people among us, in fact, the majority, who want a better future for our country. Who want to live and work to make Russia a prosperous democratic country, where the government changes through elections, and where people live safely and comfortably. Where the outside world does not fear us but respects us. Not because we threaten them with nuclear weapons and our million-strong army, but because of our achievements in science, industry, and technology. We can do it. Especially in those areas of life where the State does not interfere.

I love my country and believe it deserves a future, deserves to go forward, not to slide back into the past. Even if those who advocate such a future are being trampled upon and thrown in jail now, I know that progress cannot be stopped, that change for the better is inevitable, and it is not far off. See you in our new, desirable, and open Russia. We will get there!

Exit mobile version