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“Young people gathered to voice a silent reproach”: Dmitry Borisov’s closing statement in court

This Russian activist received a one-year prison sentence for allegedly kicking a police officer during an anti-corruption rally in March 2017. 

Dmitry Borisov at court. Source: Irina Yatsenko.

A version of this text originally appeared on OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated detentions and freedom of assembly in Russia. It was translated by the Russian Reader.

On 22 February, Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court sentenced Dmitry Borisov to one year in prison. Borisov is a defendant in the so-called “26 March Case”, involving various “forceful actions,” allegedly taken by protesters against policemen and Russian National Guardsmen on Pushkin Square during March 2017, rally inspired by Don’t Call Him Dimon, a video exposé by anti-corruption activist and would-be presidential candidate Alexey Navalny. The video accused Russian prime minister and former president Dmitry Medvedev of wide-ranging corruption. The prosecution asked the judge to sentence Borisov to three years in prison.

The court heard the defense’s and prosecution’s closing arguments, as well as Borisov’s closing statement on 20 February. According to our count, 46 people came to the hearing to support Borisov, many of them wearing t-shirts emblazoned with his picture. Prosecutor Larisa Sergunyayeva rattled off her closing argument, a printed text that she read out to the court. During Sergunyayeva’s speech, activist Ildar Dadin called her a few rude names. Dadin was removed from the courtroom, but Sergunyayeva did not slow down her rapid-fire delivery.

According to Sergunyayeva, the testimony given by policemen was believable, while the testimony of protesters could not be trusted because they had a stake in the case’s outcome. Borisov’s malicious intent was allegedly proven by the discovery of a chat session on Telegram chat on his elephone in which he had written about planning to go to the rally with friends. Many positive character references were made on Borisov’s behalf, and he had no criminal record, but if the prosecutor has her way, he will spend three years behind bars for violating Article 318 Part 1 of the Russian Criminal Code, which stipulates a maximum punishment of five years in prison.*

Borisov’s attorneys, Ilya Novikov and Nikolay Fomin, spoke for about an hour and a half. They explained Borisov had been standing calmly at the rally when, for no apparent reason, police seized his friend and dragged him to the paddy wagon. Borisov grabbed his friend. The police knocked Borisov to the ground and beat him. Four of them dragged him to the paddy wagon. The lawyers explained the prosecution’s claim Borisov had wrested a leg free from one of the policemen carrying him and kicked him in the helmet was untenable, since the policeman who had testified he had seen this was located somewhere where he could not have seen the incident. They also argued the policemen who were witnesses in the case had perjured themselves when discussing the administrative charges also filed in connection with the events of 26 March 2017. They argued that if Borisov really had kicked the policeman’s helmet, he probably would have broken his visor, because Moscow police are currently outfitted with extremely poor-quality helmets.

Finally, the defense pointed out the alleged victim did not immediately file charges. He did so two months later, apparently under pressure from Investigative Committee detectives Alexander Uranov and Rustam Gabdulin, notorious for their involvement in the Bolotnaya Square case. They handled the investigation of the 26 March Case in exactly the same manner.

The defense attorneys predicted the court would hand down the worst sentence possible.

OVD Info has published Dmitry Borisov’s closing statement in court, below. The transcript may contain a few mistakes, because the accused spoke softly.

Dmitry Borisov: Closing statement in court

Your honour, the lawyers spoke very professionally, for which I am quite grateful. I did not use violence against police officers, nor did I intend to do so, because, at very least, it would have been senseless to do so. I had been captured by four policemen and was in a vertical position. All I could see was the sky.

I honestly do not understand why for nine months running I have been traveling to interrogations and court hearings not from home, but in trucks in which 15 people sit in a three meter square cage. After sitting in this cage for seven hours, they faint and have to urinate in bottles, because the truck is parked in the garage of the Moscow City Court.

I also do not understand why I have spent many hours in the so-called assembly cells at the remand prison, that is, halfway between my cell and the trip to court. These cells are 16 metres square, and 50 men, all of them smoking, are crammed into them. That is more than three persons per square meter. Try and imagine three men smoking in a one square meter space. Try and imagine how they feel. These cells are so filthy many people would not believe such a thing was possible in the capital of our mighty country. I do not want that to sound too sarcastic. I love my country, and that is a partial explanation of why I was on Pushkin Square on 26 March. There are people who say you can judge a city by the cleanliness of its toilets. If you saw the toilet in the assembly cell you would think you were in a village on the outskirts of a godforsaken banana republic.

We did not gather to engage in bloody revolution, but to remind the authorities it is worth giving things some thought

As for the cells in Butyrka Prison, they are scruffy, filthy dungeons with a view, for example, of an unimaginably dirty brick wall. That is the view in my cell. There is no heat. We have a single radiator in our cell, but it does not work. The ventilation consists of nine tiny holes, although the cell houses twenty-eight smokers.

My lawyers have spoken about how the case was politically motivated from the get-go. The actions of the investigators and their assistants were aimed from the very outset at proving my guilt. Although Ilya Novikov has spoken about it, I would like to mention the photograph of eight defendants in the Bolotnaya Square case that proudly hangs above Investigator Uranov’s desk, with the sentences they received written below each defendant in increasing order. If I am not mistaken, the longest sentence was four years. Apparently, Mr. Uranov is especially proud of this picture. I personally witnessed him getting on the internet and searching for news about how he had apprehended “enemies of the people.” He was upset when he discovered his name spelled incorrectly in one article. I cannot remember whether his first name is Alexey or Alexander, but it was written incorrectly in the internet. He was quite adamant on this point.

As for the case itself, my guilt consists only in the fact I tried to prevent my friend from being abducted. In the opinion of some people, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time on 26 March in Pushkin Square. I am convinced it is wrong to grab people in the center of our country’s capital as if they were animals and drag them to a paddy wagon without identifying yourself and explaining the charges, even if you are wearing a security services uniform.

And that day more than a thousand people were detained.

They were detained not for holding an unauthorised rally, but for making a silent reproach. It took me a long time to find the right word to express what happened there. Young people gathered there to voice a silent reproach, to force the authorities to think a little.

We did not gather to engage in bloody revolution, but to remind the authorities it is worth giving things some thought. Otherwise, their actions really will lead to hungry bloody riots. Therefore, I ask you to exonerate me. I am not guilty of anything. I have been in jail for nearly eight and a half months for no reason at all.

* “Use of violence that does not endanger human life or health, or threats to use violence against a representative of the authorit[ies], or his relatives, in connection with the discharge [of] his official duties, shall be punishable by a fine in the amount of 200 to 500 minimum wages, or in the amount of the wage or salary, or any other income of the convicted person for a period of two to five months, or by arrest for a term of three to six months, or by deprivation of liberty for a term of up to five years.” Source: The Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.


About the author

OVD-Info was launched by volunteers in 2011 as a means of quickly monitoring arrests during mass protests. It has evolved into a full-scale analytical project dealing with law enforcement issues in Russia. Find out how you can help here.

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