RUSSIA: A new wave of searches of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ homes
127 Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently serving prison terms in Russia. See documented cases on our website HERE.
HRWF (13.02.2024) – New waves of searches of private homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses havebeen taken place in two regions of Russia at the beginning of February.
Searches in Birobidzhan
Not less than ten people were searched as part of a raid on the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Birobidzhan and the village of Amurzet on 6 February 2024. At least two criminal cases have been initiated; one is being investigated by the investigative committee, the other by the FSB.
One of the believers, Anatoly Artamonov, is suspected of involving a local resident in the activities of a liquidated legal entity of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Part 1.1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). From the search warrant it turned out that the resident in question is a young man from the village of Amurzet, located 200 km from Birobidzhan.
The security forces also came to his family with a search warrant. He had previously applied for alternative civilian service. Although the young man explained this by his personal beliefs based on the Bible, the military commissar indicated that “the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation recognized the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses as extremist and banned its activities in Russia in 2017.”
Some of those searched in Birobidzhan were talking about the Bible with a local woman and her adult daughter. As it became known, they worked for security forces and secretly recorded conversations with believers.
Searches within the framework of the case being investigated by the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Khabarovsk Territory and the Jewish Autonomous Region were authorized by the Birobidzhan District Court. Law enforcement officers seized electronic devices, data disks, personal records and Bibles in different languages.
The search of the Postnikov family in Birobidzhan took about five hours, at which time a 72-year-old acquaintance came to visit them. The security forces seized her phone. Oleg Postnikov, who is serving a suspended sentence for his faith, was threatened with tougher punishment, he was told to “prepare a bag.” On 9 February, an FSB investigator summoned the spouses for questioning.
In the Jewish Autonomous Region, 23 Jehovah’s Witnesses have already been sentenced to various terms for their Christian beliefs.
Searches in the Nizhny Novgorod Region
On 6 February 2024, at least seven homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their relatives were searched in the cities of Shakhunya, Gorodets, and the village of Vakhtan (Nizhny Novgorod Region). They affected the elderly and families with children. Some were questioned and later released.
The searches began around 6 am and lasted from two to five hours. They were conducted by security forces from Nizhny Novgorod. They seized electronic devices, personal records, data carriers, and Bibles. In most cases, law enforcement officers behaved correctly. One of the believers, an elderly man, repeatedly lost consciousness during the search, an ambulance was called for him twice and eventually taken to the hospital, from where he was later released home.
The interrogations of believers were led by T. A. Smirnova, senior investigator of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia in the city of Shakhunya.
This is not the first wave of persecution of believers in the Nizhny Novgorod region. 13 Jehovah’s Witnesses in the region have already been sentenced for practicing their religion.