Today’s Russian officials continue to repeat the mistakes of their predecessors, limiting freedoms in hopes of holding onto power with the aid of dictatorial methods. Yet, this only aggravates their situation and increases the likelihood of an uncontrollable collapse of power structures by way of societal confrontation or, God forbid, violence.

I feel that we should play no role in such a scenario, but should, despite everything, patiently explain to the authorities that it is in their own interests and in the interests of the country to change their chosen course, to allow free political competition and to guarantee civil liberties.

We cannot and must not be conduits of the idea that “the worse things get, the better,” because things will get worse not only for the authorities, but for all of us, and breaking free from that downward spiral will ultimately prove even longer and harder.

We must appeal to values, historical experience and common sense. This is very difficult, but necessary. And if we are convincing, consistent and firm, we will definitely succeed. Believe me, I know what I am saying. When we embarked on this difficult path in defense of human rights, we had far fewer reasons to be hopeful than we have now, but we believed in the success of our hopeless cause!

Today, with all my heart, I wish the same faith, strength and good fortune to all of you!