Alexei Gorinov: The Russian councilor jailed for denouncing the death of children in Ukraine: “The regime needs victims” | International

The politician Alexei Gorinov (Moscow, 61 years old) was sentenced last July to seven years in prison for criticizing the fact that children were dying in Ukraine at the same time that his district council, in the Russian capital, organized a children’s drawing contest. The councilor of the Moscow neighborhood of Krasnoselski appealed the July ruling, and this cold Monday the justice showed its frost clemency: reduced in one month, to 6 years and 11 months, the punishment. In any case, Gorinov had no illusions about the verdict. “They didn’t start this to finally prove me right or significantly reduce my punishment. The regime needs victims and exemplary processes for ordinary citizens, ”he laments in an exchange of letters with EL PAÍS from the prison where he has been locked up for the last two months. “All this has happened before in the history of my country,” he adds in his own handwriting.

The hearing was held by surprise behind closed doors. At the last minute, the police prevented the passage of fifty people who had come to support the politician, including his wife. “And you are the defenders of the law? This is an irregularity, it was an open session. You are cowards!” an activist rebuked an agent. “We are definitely in Soviet times,” lamented Oleg Orlov, chairman of the board of the Memorial Human Rights Center. Inside it, locked in a glass cage, the prisoner showed a sign where he said “thank you for his support and solidarity.”

Gorinov was sentenced for his intervention in a municipal plenary session held on March 17 where he said that by then, after three weeks of offensive, a hundred minors had already died by the bombs, “the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who participated in World War II.”

“I had no arrest or trial in mind because I did not commit any crime. I acted within the framework of my powers as municipal deputy. If I propose to vote against any type of issue, I must motivate my opinion, ”he says in the letter sent to this newspaper, a few days before the appeal ruling. “If I had known earlier that there would be such resonance and interest in this, I would have prepared myself better and intervened in a more brilliant way,” says Gorinov in a firm handwriting.

Letters sent by Alexei Gorinov to EL PAÍS in September from the SIZO-1 Matrósskaya Tishina prison.
Letters sent by Alexei Gorinov to EL PAÍS in September from the SIZO-1 Matrósskaya Tishina prison.

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The arguments for his conviction were based on the combat reports of the Ministry of Defense, an article published by the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the accusation of a citizen who happened to see the entire recording of the plenary session and felt offended because his grandparents “fought against fascism.”

According to the first sentence, Gorinov acted premeditatedly with the current president of the council, Elena Kotiónochkina, who left the country after the case was opened. Other opponents also went into exile after the approval of the new legislation that provides for up to 15 years in prison “for discrediting the actions of the armed forces in Ukraine”, while a few decided to stay, such as Vladimir Kara-Murza and Ilia Yashin, a companion of Gorinov district and facing a similar trial. “If for the politician there is a threat of losing life or freedom, then it is necessary to try to protect oneself. This issue is a personal decision, I have no right to judge anyone, ”he reflects in his letter.

Until now, the councilor became ill after his admission to prison, although he says he is already better. “I had bronchitis and there was nothing to treat it here, just like that. Medicine in prison is poor despite the fact that the government has plenty of money for rockets and ammunition. The one I got from outside helped me, ”he denounces in the first of his letters. Prison authorities only allow one letter to be written at a time, and the exchange also takes several days because it must pass prior censorship.

“The censor has crossed out the second part of your question,” warned Gorinov, unaware that it was the link to the figures for civilian casualties recorded between February 24 and September 4 by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. , a body of which Russia is a part. “I show my pain and condolences to all citizens of Ukraine. I understand my guilt as a citizen of Russia”, he replies when asked how he valued those tragic data that included 372 deceased minors.

“Freedom is expensive and we have paid little for it”

Gorinov met in prison Mikhail Gorbachev’s death. The politician had been a Moscow councilor between 1990 and 1993, between the end of the USSR and the birth of a very fragile democracy. “Those were years of change, of hope, of freedom. It all ended with the shooting of the legislative body in October 1993 [la crisis constitucional que Boris Yeltsin resolvió con el bombardeo del Parlamento]. Everything we have now dates back to then: the gradual suppression of citizen freedom and freedom of the media; the restrictions to be able to exercise their own rights”, emphasizes the now prisoner.

“Freedom is expensive. It seems that we have paid little for it and we have not been able to take advantage of its possibilities due to the historical absence of a democratic experience in Russia”, laments Gorinov in his letter, who, however, had not been aware of the recent proposal to the Duma of a group of councilors of St. Petersburg to dismiss Vladimir Putin for high treason. His council was dissolved by a court last week and they were sentenced to a fine for discrediting the country’s president.

“I knew absolutely nothing. These types of actions try to draw the attention of civil society to what is happening; shake her, make her think. The country’s political leadership has parted ways with it,” says Gorinov.

When asked who will be released first, he from prison or the president of the Kremlin, he does not rule anything out. “Putin will stand in the new elections [de 2024]. To this end, the Constitution of the Russian Federation was changed. However, nothing is pre-established neither in life nor in history”, warns a man who years ago saw first-hand the convulsion of a State that seemed eternal.

Gorinov, from the old Russian school, claims “to be the same as before”. “I am still a free man inside and loyal to my principles,” says the politician, who wanted to send a message abroad. “The government of our country is not all of Russia, it is not all of its citizens. And we must compulsorily return to the path of civilization in the development of our society. We still have to see a democratic, peaceful Russia, integrated into the global economy, ”he concludes without further space in his letter.

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