On July 8 Alexei Gorinov, a municipal deputy of Krasnoselsky district of Moscow, was sentenced to 7 years in a penal colony for spreading “fakes” about the Russian army (part 2 of Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code). He became the first person who received a real sentence under this article and did not plead guilty. Before him, all those accused under that article received a fine or a suspended sentence. The Insider publishes Gorin's final word in court.
“I think, or it has always seemed to me, that our common past dictates ya few major lessons for us. My father came back from World War II disabled. So did his brother. And they were lucky. They had been fulfilling - and had fulfilled - their sacred duty of defending the Fatherland from the enemy. I’m old enough to have seen Moscow of the '60s. With veterans - armless, legless, blind. There were quite a few of them in our house too. I grew up among them.
Survivors of that war were reluctant to tell stories about it. As I grew older, I understood why. Because a war, as a human activity, no matter how you call it, is the basest, vilest and filthiest thing. It is unworthy of man, who is entrusted by the universe and evolution with the task of preserving and multiplying all life on our planet.
I am convinced of this: a war is the fastest method of dehumanization, when the line between good and evil is erased. War is always violence and blood, mangled bodies and severed limbs. It is always death. I do not accept it, I reject it. This is what our common past has taught me. And probably I am not the only one: the Russian Criminal Code has Articles 353 and 354, which provides for severe liability for preparing, waging and propagandizing a war of aggression. And I believe that Russia exhausted its limit on wars back in the twentieth century.
But our present is Bucha, Irpen, and Gostomel... Do the names of those towns mean anything to you? Those of you who do not know what happened there should inquire about it. And then don`t say you didn`t know.
For five months, Russia has been conducting military operations on the territory of a neighboring state, coyly calling it a “special military operation”. We are promised victory and glory. Why then do so many of my fellow citizens feel shame and guilt? Why have so many of them left Russia and continue to do so? And why does our country suddenly have so many enemies?
Could it be that there is something wrong with us? Let's think about it! At least give us a chance to discuss what is going on. To exchange opinions. It is, after all, our constitutional right! In fact, that's what I did. At a municipal council meeting, I expressed my opinion, my attitude as a human being regarding the subject of the vote. I based that opinion, that attitude on my convictions. And I was supported by a majority of those present! And now I'm on trial.
It seems like another unlearned lesson from our common past. Punishment for words, trumped-up cases, speedy trials, belated epiphanies: “How could it be, we didn't know!”
During the Stalinist years of terror, my grandfather was accused of calling for the overthrow of the Soviet system which he himself had helped create and consolidate. My grandfather lived to be fully rehabilitated half a century later. I hope my rehabilitation will take much less time. But for now, here I am, in the courtroom.
My criminal case is one of the first to be heard, but there are hundreds of such criminal cases in Russia opened against my fellow citizens who think and speak out about what is happening. Whole families are being destroyed, young people's lives are being destroyed. By speaking here, I speak for all of those who are not yet on trial.
The few phrases I said at a routine meeting of the Council of Deputies were examined under a microscope. A team of nine investigators was formed, six of whom were “serious cases investigators.” There were five experts – linguists and psychologists.
They dug through my mind, trying to understand: what was really behind the opinions I expressed to my fellow deputies concerning one of the items on the session's agenda. Was there a secret meaning or a hidden message? What was the true meaning of my phrases? Two 120-page expert reports were produced...
Meanwhile, Article 29 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation guarantees everyone freedom of thought and expression, as long as it does not imply propaganda of hatred, hostility or superiority. Everyone has the right to freely seek, receive, transmit, produce and disseminate information by any lawful means. Freedom of mass information is guaranteed. Censorship is prohibited.
During the August 1991 coup, I was also a deputy. Together with other defenders I was outside the building of the Supreme Soviet of the Republic - the “White House”. We were defending our future. Our right to live freely, which meant freedom to speak, to express our thoughts, to gather and share information.
If they had told me then that thirty years later I would be tried by a criminal court for my words, for my opinions, I would not have believed it. The reasons for such a sad outcome, which our society has come to, will require thorough research and reflection by historians. It will require not only reflection, but also conclusions. It will not be easy, but we will have to recognize that a war is a war. We will have to rehabilitate the victims and judge the criminals. We will have to restore the good name of our people and our country.
In the meantime, I wish prudence to our government. I wish wisdom to the court. I wish endurance to all those who are affected by the new wave of repressions as well as to all the Ukrainian people. To myself I wish being appointed future Russia's ambassador to Ukraine. To everyone who supported me directly or from a distance - don't give up! I am with you!”