RUSSIA: Religious persecution and issues – Bimonthly digest Jan 16-31

31.01.2023 – The Court keeps an elderly believer from Maykop in a pre-trial detention Center for months.

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On January 17, 2023, the Maykop City Court refused to release Nikolay Voishchev, a 67-year-old Jehovah’s Witness from Maykop, from custody, where he has been held for more than 3 months only because of the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He will stay in the pre-trial detention center for at least another six months, despite the disease discovered in him.

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29.01.2023 – The Supreme Lama of Kalmykia left his post after being declared a “foreign agent” – Honorary Representative of the Dalai Lama in Russia, Mongolia and CIS countries Telo Tulku Rinpoche (Erdni Ombadykov) decided to leave the post of the supreme lama of Kalmykia after the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation declared him a “foreign agent”. This is stated in his address on the website of the Central Khurul of the Republic.

“I wish the people of Kalmykia and all followers of Buddhism in these difficult times to maintain courage, fortitude and commitment to the ideals of compassion, love and non-violence on which our Buddha Teachings is based,” the statement reads.


The Supreme Lama of Kalmykia handed over powers to the rector of the Kalmyk Central Buddhist monastery “Geden Sheddup Choi Korling” Geshe Tenjin Choydak (Mutul Ovyanov) and the administrator of the gelong Yonten Lodoy (Sergey Kirishov).


25.01.2023 – A Court in the Kemerovo Region sentenced a labor veteran to 6 years of suspended term for reading the Bible with friends

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On January 24, 2023, the judge of the Kuznetsk District Court of Novokuznetsk (Kemerovo Region) Anton Iordan found the 65-year-old labor veteran guilty of extremism because of his religious views.

Sergey Sushilnikov and his wife have been living in Novokuznetsk for over 40 years. During this time, he repeatedly received certificates of honor and awards from the city administration and his employers. He has the title of labor veteran.

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24.01.2023 – Two trials, nine long jail terms

Eight of nine Jehovah’s Witnesses convicted on “extremism”-related charges in two trials in Russia’s Far East in December 2022 received jail terms of 6 to 7 years. An Amur Region Prosecutor’s Office official justified the jailings: “Any missionary activity of members of a religious organisation liquidated by a court in connection with repeated violations of the law on countering extremist activity will be illegal in nature and subject to liability established by law.” The 9 were among 124 Jehovah’s Witnesses criminally convicted in 2022. Trials continue.

 In two trials in mid-December 2022, two courts in Russia’s Far East sentenced a total of 9 Jehovah’s Witnesses to long jail terms. All but one received jail terms of between 6 and 7 years. The 9 men were among 19 Jehovah’s Witnesses to receive general-regime prison terms in the last quarter of 2022.

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23.01.2023 – The Court of Cassation upheld the sentence of four believers from Volgograd. 

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On January 19, 2023, the Fourth General Jurisdiction Court of Cassation in Krasnodar did not change the guilty verdict and appeal ruling in the case of Valeriy Rogozin, Igor Egozaryan, Sergey Melnik and Denis Peresunko, who were sentenced to long terms for their faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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21.01.2023 – In Kamchatka, another foreign citizen fined for “illegal” missionary work

Sova Center – On January 20, 2023, the Elizovsky District Court of the Kamchatka Territory found the foreign citizen Abdulmashit Abduvaliev guilty under Part 5 of Art. 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (implementation by a foreign citizen of missionary activity in violation of the requirements of the law) and fined him 30 thousand rubles.

According to the court, he, being in the temporary detention center for foreign citizens of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Kamchatka Territory, “conducted religious ceremonies with the participation of at least 10-12 persons”, without permits and not belonging to any religious organization.

Abduvaliev admitted guilt.

20.01.2023 – Court of Appeal in Krasnoyarsk upheld the verdict against 56-year-old Yevgeniy Zinich.

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On January 19, 2022, the Judicial Chamber for Criminal Cases of the Krasnoyarsk Regional Court upheld the verdict against Yevgeniy Zinich—6 years in a penal colony for reading the Bible. The believer still insists on his innocence and can appeal the verdict through the cassation process.

In addition to the term in the penal colony, Zinich is deprived of the right to engage in the organizational activity in public associations and religious organizations for 2 years and his freedom is limited for a year. After the verdict was announced, Yevgeniy spent six months in a pre-trial detention center, awaiting an appeal.

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19.01.2023 – A second appeal in Rostov-on-Don toughened the sentence for Arsen Avanesov.

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Recently it became known that back on August 8, 2022, the Rostov Regional Court toughened the punishment for one of the three believers from Rostov , Arsen Avanesov, who was previously sentenced to 6.5 years in a penal colony, adding another six months to the term.

In June 2022, the court of cassation in Krasnodar upheld the verdict against Vilen Avanesov and Aleksandr Parkov, but satisfied the prosecutor’s request regarding Arsen. The believer was again charged with “financing extremist activity”, a charge that the court had previously excluded. Later the case of Arsen Avanesov returned to the stage of appeal, where his sentence was toughened.

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19.01.2023 – The Yaroslavl City Hall is trying to sue the building of the pilgrimage center from the diocese

Sova Center – On January 17, 2023, it became known that the mayor’s office of Yaroslavl filed a lawsuit against the Yaroslavl diocese with an arbitration court. The city authorities demand that the diocese’s right of ownership to the building of the pilgrimage center on Bogoyavlenskaya Square be recognized as missing.

The building was transferred to the use of the diocese in 1994 for the purpose of reconstruction. At the same time, the diocese registered it as a property, which, according to the city authorities, was done in violation of the law.

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17.01.2023 – The appeal Court upheld the verdict against six believers from Saransk.

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On January 16, 2023, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Mordovia upheld the sentence of six Jehovah’s Witnesses from Saransk: 6 years imprisonment for Atryakhin, 4 years and 2 months in a penal colony for the Nikulins, and 2 years imprisonment for Shevchuk, Korolev, and Antonov.

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17.01.2023 – The Cassation Court did not change the sentence of five of Jehovah’s Witnesses from Kursk. 

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On January 12, 2023, the First Cassation Court of General Jurisdiction in Saratov left unchanged the verdict of the Promyshlennyy District Court of the city of Kursk and the appellate ruling of the Judicial Panel for Criminal Cases of the Kursk Regional Court against five of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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 16.01.2023 – The court began consideration of the case of ex-shiigumen Sergiy (Romanov) and Vsevolod Moguchev

 Sova center – On August 16, 2022, the Babushkinsky District Court of Moscow began considering the merits of the case of the former shiigumen Sergiy (Romanov) and his assistant Vsevolod Moguchev, accused under paragraph “c” of Part 2 of Art. 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (actions aimed at inciting hatred or enmity, committed publicly, including using the Internet, by an organized group).

 They are charged with publishing videos aimed at inciting hatred towards Jews, Catholics and Muslims.

 Both defendants plead not guilty.

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