Mikhail Benyash, a lawyer from Krasnodar who defended civil activists in Russia, was declared a “foreign agent” in October 2022. On February 17, 2023, it became known that he was deprived of his lawyer status. And shortly before that, on February 10, a court session was held at which the lawyer’s complaint about the decision to include him in the register of “foreign agents” was considered. The complaint was rejected. Benyash handed over to Meduza the materials of the meeting, during which the Russian Ministry of Justice had to answer unpleasant questions about Russian aggression in Ukraine. We publish excerpts from the protocol of the court.
The main characters, in addition to the lawyer
Mikhail Benyash , are representatives of the Russian Ministry of Justice
Irina Vikovskaya and
Ivan Avdyshoev .
Benyash. During the speech of the administrative defendants [they] reported that I discredit and pronounce, write texts that discredit the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. Was this the basis for recognizing me as a “foreign agent”?
Avdyshoev. There are publications in the telegram channel, which is a confirmation of the position of Benyash M.M. and is the basis for recognition as a “foreign agent”.
Benyash. Are you quoting a specific post?
Vikovskaya. Publication in the telegram channel <…>. “I have always said that the main risk of indefinite rule is that the ruler can go crazy by the end of his life, no matter how good he was at the beginning. Today at five in the morning Russia openly attacked Ukraine. What are thousands of hypocritical, deceitful words worth if behind them is an act that only Hitler has committed in modern history? Russia bombs Kyiv at five in the morning. My country attacked another country. My country is an aggressor country. The President of my country unleashed an aggressive war, which is expressly prohibited by the Russian Criminal Code.”
Benyash. Am I correct in assuming that these information and facts, in your opinion, are discrediting?
Benyash. Is this information discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation or only the President of the Russian Federation?
Avdyshoev. Discrediting the entire NWO .
Benyash. Do I have the right to speak negatively towards the NWO?
Vikovskaya. Every person has the right to express himself in his own way. But you have received money from foreign sources and are involved in political activities through the dissemination of information through social networks, as well as foreign online publications included in the register of “foreign agents”.
Benyash. Cite where I identified Russia with the Third Reich?
Vikovskaya. “What are thousands of hypocritical, deceitful words worth if behind them is an act that only Hitler has committed in modern history?”
Benyash. What act?
Vikovskaya. “My country is an aggressor country. My country attacked another country. Russia is bombing Kyiv at five in the morning.”
Benyash. Do I understand correctly that you deny the shelling of Kyiv?
Vikovskaya. This is the protection of Russia itself from those who have taken Ukraine hostage and are trying to use it against our country and its people. This is a quote from the address of the President of the Russian Federation dated February 24, 2022. I believe that Russia is protecting its country.
Benyash. I asked about something else. Do you deny the fact that Russia is shelling Kyiv?
Vikovskaya. I deny that Russia is shelling Kyiv. I say that Russia is protecting its country.
Benyash. Do I understand you correctly that you regard the information that Russia is shelling Kyiv as discrediting the RF Armed Forces?
Vikovskaya. Russia does not shell Kyiv or Ukraine. Russia defends its country and territory.
Benyash. I didn’t ask about protection. I did not write about protection or not protection. I always give exhaustive answers. I wrote – quote: “Russia bombs Kyiv at five in the morning.” I wrote it, and I am ready to answer for it. Fact statement: “Russia is shelling Kyiv.” Do you deny it or not, as a primitive defense?
Vikovskaya. Russia is implementing NWO. I insist that Russia is doing NWO. It protects the territory of the Russian Federation.
Vikovskaya (to the question of the judge). In this quote, Russia does not bomb. It doesn’t just bomb. Nobody declared war.
Vikovskaya (to the question of the judge). During the implementation of hostilities on military territory, both the shelling of one territory and the shelling of another territory takes place.
Benyash. Do you deny that Russia shelled Kyiv?
Vikovskaya. Russia responds to the shelling [from] Ukraine with strikes on the enemy.
Benyash. You said that the shelling was for the shelling of Kyiv.
The question was dropped by the court.
Benyash. Do I understand correctly that you qualified this phrase as an identification of the actions of Russia and Nazi Germany?
Vikovskaya. If you compare by text – yes, of course.
Benyash. That is, for you, my phrase “Russia is bombing Kyiv” – for you, is this identification with Nazi Germany?
Vikovskaya. No. Let’s not take one phrase out of context. You say: “What are thousands of hypocritical, false words worth if behind them is an act that only Hitler committed in modern history? Russia is bombing Kyiv at five in the morning.” We can remember 1941. I am outraged by the phrase that Russia is an aggressor country. My country is not an aggressor country, my country is defending its territories.
Benyash. What territories did the country defend on February 24, 2022?
The question was dropped by the court.
Benyash. I wrote that “fascism does not begin where the state strives for evil, but where citizens do nothing at the sight of evil.” Was this also the basis for recognizing me as a “foreign agent”?
Vikovskaya. Do you think that my country is an aggressor country?
Benyash. We have different countries.
Benyash (to the question of the judge). When I wrote: “My country is an aggressor country,” I explain. On February 24, 2022, Russia proactively sent troops into the territory of the sovereign state of Ukraine, using aviation and heavy artillery, and, from the point of view of the Geneva Conventions and modern international law, the vast majority of lawyers in the world, such actions are classified as an aggressive war. This is not my opinion exclusively. This is the opinion of most of humanity.
Benyash (to the question of the judge). My opinion, a subjective opinion, is based on Article 29 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which says that I have the right to freely disseminate my opinion in a decent manner. This is not an opinion, it is a fact that on February 24, 2022, Russia sent its troops – using force, heavy weapons, aviation – into the territory of a sovereign state. The vast majority of people on this planet believe that this is an aggressive war, and I, by virtue of Article 29 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, have the right to think in the same way, and this is my opinion. If you think that you should be recognized as a “foreign agent” for your opinion, expressed in public form, put in jail, then, in my opinion, your denial that the Russian Federation has become a fascist [state] is a bit not based on facts.