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Oleg Orlov reading Franz Kafka’s The Trial in a Moscow courtroom during his trial, February 2024. © 2024 Ekaterina Yanshina, for Memorial

Update: The verdict in the case of Oleg Orlov will be delivered on February 27 at noon in Moscow.

(Moscow) – Oleg Orlov, a leading Russian human rights defender, has begun reading his closing statement following what was clearly a sham trial, Human Rights Watch said today.

Orlov, the co-chair of Memorial, the Russian human rights group which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022 along with two other recipients, is charged with “discrediting” Russia’s armed forces for speaking out against the war in Ukraine. The verdict, which is expected within hours, comes in the wake of the death of Russia’s key opposition politician, Alexei Navalny, for which the Kremlin bears responsibility.

“Orlov’s trial was pure Kafka, so it is fitting that he chose to read the author’s iconic novel, The Trial, in protest during the court hearings,” said Tanya Lokshina, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This is another grim day for Russia.”

In his closing statement, Orlov speaks of Navalny and other victims of politically motivated prosecutions and describes Russia’s slide into totalitarianism. But he notably urges his compatriots not to lose hope.

The full text of Oleg’s closing statement can be read here.

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