Dmitri Vasilets, a Russian military officer, who was sent to the front in Ukraine, lost two of his comrades, went on a leave and refused to fight. He was sentenced to 2 years and 5 months of prison. “Novaya gazeta” made an interview with him and a short film on his story [in Russian].

Here is his last plea in court.

Honorable court, honorable participants!

First of all, I am human. Being human is not an easy task. It is very difficult to maintain humanity in the conditions of hostilities, but as Sergei Bodrov [*an actor in Russian action films] said, “all significant battles take place inside us.”

When you lose your subordinates, your close-minded comrades in the conditions of hostilities, darkness, anger, hatred, and anger accumulate in your soul. This state is somewhat similar to alcohol intoxication. In the power of these obscurations, a person can commit terrible deeds, not realizing all the destructiveness of his deeds. But how to help a drunk person? Should we supply him with a few more bottles of alcoholic drinks? Or should we exclude the use of alcohol so that after a while the body can recover and the person comes to a sober state of mind and can think about his actions? But it’s one thing when we remove access to alcohol – this is only the first step towards improvement. The second, most important step is the readiness of the person himself, his determination, strong-willed qualities and the hardest inner work on himself.

I spent a lot of time thinking. I cannot know the answers to all questions, and it is impossible, I think, to know everything. But when I really needed help, the religion and philosophy of Buddhism came to my rescue, as well as my close friends and other people who did not stand aside. Honestly, the most important victory, the victory over my main opponent – hatred, anger, aggression and misunderstanding – I have already won.

I am a happy man. The only thing I regret now is how little good I have done in my life. What I’m worried about right now is how to minimize the anger and hatred in the hearts of other people, how to make sure that in the future Russia and Ukraine have the opportunity to come to peace and mutual understanding. Don’t we need a peaceful sky above our heads? Do we really need provocations and terrorist attacks? I want us and our younger generation to be able to walk on our land safely and without fear.

Regardless of the decision of the honorable court, regardless of the surrounding circumstances, I will not stop loving my Motherland, my people and respect other human beings. In our world, that person is truly happy who can live without hatred among people overwhelmed with hatred. Love resists anger and cruelty, self-interest and indifference, it brings with it consciousness and inner peace.

I thank the distinguished court and all its participants. I believe that even if justice in my country has lost its significance and value for many, this does not mean that I should act unfairly. “In dark times, bright people are clearly visible”–this is a quote from Erich Maria Remarque. Thank you for listening to me. I believe that these will not be the last words in my life.

Dmitri Vasilets is a former Russian military officer,