Egor Balazeïkin, during his trial in Saint Petersburg, November 22, 2023. OLGA MALTSEVA / AFP
Egor Balazeïkin, 17, was sentenced by a military court in Saint Petersburg on Wednesday, November 22, to a six-year prison sentence with a strict regime. This high school student, whose portrait Le Monde profiled in September, was found guilty of “attempted terrorist act with the aim of destabilizing state institutions”.
He was arrested in February, at the age of 16, when he had just thrown a Molotov cocktail at the doors of the military recruitment office in Kirov, near his village in the Saint Petersburg region. According to the prosecution, he committed a similar act a few weeks earlier in St. Petersburg.
Egor Balazeïkin never denied his responsibility for the first of these two acts, explaining it by his opposition to the war in Ukraine. Since his arrest, he has not given in to investigators’ attempts to coax him or to threats. In a letter to his mother, his sole ambition was to “remain a man”, in Russia subject to the laws of war as well as in prison.
Read the investigation: Article reserved for our subscribers Imprisoned in Russia at 16, Egor Balazeïkine, the “terrorist” who wanted to “remain a man”
The prosecutor had requested a sentence of six years’ imprisonment, relatively lenient in light of the verdicts handed down by the Russian justice system in recent months. On November 14, a resident of Togliatti, for example, received the same sentence for defacing posters showing “heroes” of the “special military operation” in Ukraine. Three days later, Alexandra Skotchilenko, a Petersburg artist, was sentenced to seven years in prison for sticking anti-war labels in a supermarket.
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The court considered Egor Balazeïkin’s state of health as a mitigating circumstance. The young man, passionate about history and karate, has suffered from autoimmune hepatitis since the age of 8, an incurable and serious illness, which has worsened since his detention in February.
Another mitigating circumstance: the fact that he always admitted the facts. On Wednesday, he once again explained his action at the hearing: “I came to the conclusion that I could never approve of the presence of Russian armed forces on the territory of Ukraine. I tried to talk about it around me, to help people become aware of it. But I understood that the discussions were useless and I wanted to act differently. »
“We will take stock in the other world”
In the defiant posture that was his during the hearings, standing with clenched fists, he pronounced his “last words” in court facing a prosecutor who had fallen asleep, according to the journalists present. “The person closest to me, my mother, would like me to be acquitted,” he said. But I am not asking for acquittal – my conscience will judge me. Six years, eight years, it doesn’t matter… We’ll do the math in the next world. (…) I am told to be patient and that everything will be fine in our country. But is this really the case? Two years have passed and I still don’t see the link between bombed Mariupol and what is happening in my little house [la famille d’Egor habite une maison en bois proche de l’insalubrité]. And even if all this made it possible to renovate our cities and open sports halls, would the price be acceptable? Lives… The date of February 24 [2022, début de la guerre] has become more important to me than my birthday. I know I’m going to jail, but if I’m guilty of one thing, it’s being indifferent… At first, I didn’t care, which is like supporting [la guerre]. »
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