“Our country turned into an avalanche of grief.” The closing court statement of journalist Roman Ivanov, sentenced to 7 years for anti‑war posts
“Our country turned into an avalanche of grief.” The closing court statement of journalist Roman Ivanov, sentenced to 7 years for anti‑war posts
7 March 2024, 13:00

Роман Иванов. Фото: Александра Астахова / Медиазона

Yesterday, a court in the Moscow region sentenced RusNews reporter Roman Ivanov to 7 years in a medium security colony for a series of social media posts in which he wrote about the Bucha massacre and other war crimes of the Russian army. Several days earlier, Ivanov delivered his closing statement. In the end, he stood on his knees and begged Ukrainians who lost their loved ones in the war for forgiveness. Here is his speech.

Your Honour, I didn’t prepare a closing statement, so I’m just going to speak my mind. I don’t want to talk and speculate about journalism, about its problems in Russia, because there is no more journalism in Russia. I don’t want to elaborate on the state of the justice system, on courts, because there is no justice system, no justice in Russia either. I don’t want to elaborate on politics, also nonexistent in Russia. I Just want to talk about us, about all people, about Russians.

I want to say that we all want to be happy. That’s the way a human being works, dreaming about happiness. Will those who started this criminal case against me, who persecuted me, who put me on trial, who is guarding me be happy—of I’m unhappy and so is my family? Of course, not. We need to ask ourselves a question: why are we spreading around grief and unhappiness, why did our country turn into an real avalanche grief and unhappiness?

Working as an independent journalist in the city of Korolev, I tried to respond to every human pain, any problem, help everybody. Perhaps, among the most dreadful consequences of this trial for me is that people in Korolev will be without my help for a long time. I won’t be able to shed light on this or that problem. I won’t be able to tell them the truth about what’s really going on in the city of Korolev. I won’t do a live broadcast from an election committee, so people would know how the election results in the city of Korolev are being formed. Perhaps, this is what’s most unpleasant for me.

I mentioned happiness, perhaps, my speech will be somewhat muddled, but you know, happiness can only surround a person who is happy. I consider myself to be happy, because I have friends who are always there to help. I have a family, that I haven’t been able to communicate with for 10 months now. I have a woman I love—and I’m the happiest man in the world, because she agreed to become my wife. You are trying to make me unhappy. I don’t know why you need to do this.

Of course, I feel sorry for my family, my wife, because I had big plans, our family plans. We wanted to become parents. And now, it’s not clear how that could play out.

I was happy doing my job, I was happy to help people. I had big professional plans. There were many topics that I wanted to raise, ways to develop my project. This, too, can actually be put to rest. As I already said, I don’t know why you want to make me unhappy. This is not clear to me. But I will still be happy. And as a happy person, spread goodness and happiness around me. I don’t hold a grudge against anyone. Not against those who broke down the door to my apartment and searched it. Well, in general, I don’t hold a grudge against anyone. There is no need in that.

At the very beginning, I said that our country has turned into an avalanche of grief that no one wants to see. How no one wants to see that this grief has befallen me. It seems to everyone that this is an absolutely normal phenomenon when people who have not caused any harm end up in a cage. But it’s scary when this grief spills out beyond the borders of our country. When this grief, thanks to us, came to other people.

From the very beginning I talked about crime, about the criminal essence of starting the special military operation. From the very beginning I told people that it would bring nothing but misfortune and grief. There will be no happiness. Because probably all of us, when we were little, read Maeterlinck, “The Blue Bird.” This is precisely a quest for happiness. This is about catching the bird. And the most terrible moment in this book is when Tyltyl was looking for a blue bird in the palace of the Queen of the Night and he had to open the door to the cave with war inside. And he had never seen anything more terrible in his life, simply opening it for one second and then slamming it back. This door is not only slightly opened now, it is wide open. If I am unhappy and my family is unhappy, this fate will sooner or later come to everyone. Misfortune spreads like an avalanche in this situation.

In conclusion, I’d like to tell you about an everyday incident really made its way to my heart, to my soul. My wife and I went to Ukraine in the summer of 2018, I just went on vacation in my car to the Odesa region. In 2018, everyone told me that I shouldn’t go there: “They’ll see that you’re Russian, they’ll just kill you there.” Nothing like that happened to us. We drove through the entire Odesa region, along the coast, right up to the border with Romania. We traveled with tents, we camped in all the places where tourists stop. There was a huge number of Ukrainians from different cities, there was even a tent with a flag... Lord, this... I mean the one whose business card is sometimes handed out. And even these people didn’t say anything to us. No complaints. Although the war was already underway. It was in Donetsk, it was in Luhansk.

Everyone was happy to see us, we communicated wonderfully with everyone. Because we didn’t come there in a tank. And we didn’t come there with the right of force. Back then, I was shocked to see that there were practically no Russians in Ukraine. In summer the Black Sea is wonderful, everyone is relaxed. Magical places. Ukrainians are there on vacation, Poles, Balts, Moldovans from Transnistria. But there are practically no Russians. They looked at our license plates, Moscow license plates, like this. I just had pain in my heart when I realised this. I realised that our peoples were torn apart, that this criminal government tore apart the people closest to us.

But then perhaps the most important thing happened. We were camping in a place that is very popular for those who travel with tents, likes to camp and relax by the sea in Ukraine. And there was a family from the suburbs of Kyiv, from Bila Tserkva, parents and children. A boy, probably about third grade. And a slightly younger girl. We became friends with them: we had board games, we played different board games with them, it was a lot of fun.

But I noticed that the children seemed a little bit tense somehow. This was quite strange to me. And then at some point a simply shocking situation happened, because the boy began to ask: “Are you really from Russia?” We say: “Yes, we are from Russia.” And he says: “Are you really from Moscow?” We say: “Well, yes, we aren’t exactly from Moscow, we are in the city of Korolev, right next to Moscow.” He was silent and then after some time, in all seriousness, without any jokes, he asked: “Aren’t you going to kill us?” To sat that I was in shock would be an understatement.

I was shocked by what was happening. And by what might happen next. I talked to the parents, then I said: “Why did this situation happen? Why do children say that?” He says: “Well, because there is a war in Donbas, because at school they say that Russia is an enemy of Ukraine and has aggressive plans.”

I asked them to explain to the children that ordinary Russian people, simple Russians, do not wish any harm to Ukrainians, that this is some kind of problematic situation at the top of Russian leadership. Now in 2024, I think with horror how I deceived these children, telling them: “Don’t be afraid, nothing will happen. We will not kill you.” We kill them, unfortunately. I don’t know what happened to this family, because Bila Tserkva was also hit by rockets. But I will always remember them. And I think that when we meet again, it will be very difficult for me to talk to them. It won’t be like before.

I wrote my first post about the situation with Bucha so that Russians could see how terrible the war is. That it brings nothing but fear, pain, grief, destruction, loss—to another country and to our country too. Thousands of families have been left without their relatives: fathers, children, and sons have not returned. And other families are waiting in horror for a death notice to come.

We must understand that everything that is happening is our fault. I admit that what happened was my fault as well. As a citizen of Russia, as someone who allowed this to happen, as someone who allowed the Russian authorities to make such catastrophic decisions. And as a journalist who couldn’t reach out to society. And explain that the “right of force” is something from the Middle Ages. That we live in the 21st century. That enjoying archaic emotions is simply monstrous and low.

What can we do in this situation? To be honest, I don’t even know anymore. But I want to ask forgiveness. All citizens of Ukraine to whom our country has brought grief. Whom our country has deprived of their relatives, loved ones, their friends. Which can never be returned. And not for the whole country, but personally for myself: citizen of the Russian Federation, Ivanov Roman Viktorovich. I want to kneel before the relatives of those people who were killed in Bucha. Although I don’t know who killed them. But these are the consequences of what our country has come to.

Editor: Maria Klimova

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