RUSSIA: Freedom of religion or belief: Bimonthly newsletter (1-15.07.2022)
15.07.2022 – Administrative prosecutions for opposing Ukraine war
Police in Yekaterinburg detained artist Ivan Lyubimov for quoting on his anti-war poster John Donne’s text “No man is an island” and UN figures for civilian casualties in Ukraine. He awaits charges. Police in Kaluga charged Aleksandr Ivanov for an anti-war statement on his online Orthodox encyclopaedia on the war’s first day. For fear of prosecution, the site has been forced to remove its news section, which had reported the destruction of churches in Ukraine and reposted foreign Orthodox leaders’ anti-war pronouncements.
15.07.2022 – An Appeal in Seversk replaced the prison term of Andrey Ledyaykin with a suspended sentence
Link to full text in Russian: https://jw-russia.org/news/2022/07/151002.html
On July 14, 2022, a panel of judges of the Tomsk Regional Court mitigated the sentence of one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Andrey Ledyaykin, 33, replacing the sentence of 2 years and 2 months in prison with a suspended sentence of the same term.
In July 2020, FSB and Investigative Committee officers, accompanied by two OMON fighters, arrived at Andrey Ledyaikin’s place of work, the administration of Seversk, to pick him up for a search of his home. After the Seversk Investigative Department opened a criminal case against Ledyaykin in March 2021, he was forced to resign. Rosfinmonitoring has included a peaceful believer in the list of extremists and terrorists.
13.07.2022 – New cases initiated against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Yaroslav Region
Sova Center – On July 13, 2022, the investigative department of the Russian Investigative Committee for the Yaroslavl Region announced the initiation of a criminal case against a 66-year-old and a 45-year-old Jehovah’s Witnesses from Rybinsk. They became suspects of participating in the activities of an extremist organization (Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code).
11.07.2022 – In Surgut, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been searched again, including those who were tortured by security forces
Link to full text in Russian: https://jw-russia.org/news/2022/07/111435.html
Early in the morning of July 7, 2022, searches were carried out in Surgut in at least 5 dwellings of believers. The security forces again came to the apartments of Kirill Severinchyk and Yevhen Kayryak, who were tortured by the security forces in 2019.
The new raid was carried out by employees of the 4th Investigation Department of the Main Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation with the participation of employees of the local Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Federal Security Service for the Tyumen Region and the OMON of the Department of the Russian Guard for the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug. According to eyewitnesses, law enforcement officers behaved respectfully towards believers. The security forces seized Bibles, personal photographs, electronic devices, storage media, bank cards, and a board game.
Sova Center – On June 30, 2022, the Zheleznodorozhny District Court of Krasnoyarsk received the case of Jehovah’s Witness Igor Gusev, accused of organizing the activities of an extremist organization (Part 1, Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code).
The criminal case was initiated on February 17, 2022. According to investigators, Gusev “organized religious performances and services.” In May 2020, he was interrogated as a witness in the case of another believer from Krasnoyarsk, Vitaly Sukhov; in December 2021, Sukhov was given a suspended sentence of six years in prison.
The Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case against a Russian Orthodox priest, Fr Nikandr Pinchuk from Sverdlovsk Region, for his opposition to Russia’s 2022 war against Ukraine. He opposed Russia’s attack on Ukraine on religious grounds, describing it to Forum 18 as a “mortal sin”. After being fined for his comments in March, he is now under investigation under Criminal Code Article 280.3, which punishes a repeat offence of “discrediting” the Armed Forces. He remains a suspect and has not been arrested.
08.07.2022 -Orthodox priest detained for opposing war “outraged by absurdity of accusations”
The Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case against a Russian Orthodox priest for his explicitly religious opposition to Russia’s 2022 war against Ukraine. Fr Ioann Kurmoyarov had posted videos online criticising the war. Arrested on 7 June, he is currently in detention at St Petersburg’s Kresty prison awaiting trial for the new criminal offence of disseminating “knowingly false information” about the Russian military (Criminal Code Article 207.3). Fr Ioann is “outraged by the absurdity of the accusations,” his lawyer told Forum 18.
02.07.2022 – Evangelical Christians in Kabardino-Balkaria charged with illegal missionary activity
Link to full text in Russian : https://ovd.news/express-news/2022/07/02/evangelskim-hristianam-v-kabardino-balkarii-vmenili-nezakonnuyu
Evangelical Christians in the town of Nartkaly in Kabardino-Balkaria were charged with an administrative report on illegal missionary activity. This is reported by the publication “Kavkaz.Realii”.
A representative of the religious organization, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the security forces had inspected the premises of the Church of Evangelical Christians. After that, a protocol was drawn up for the organization on the implementation of missionary activities without indicating its official full name ( part 3 of article 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Offenses ).
01.07.2022 – A Seversk appeal upheld Sergey Belousov’s suspended three-year sentence for practicing faith in God
Link to full text in Russian : https://jw-russia.org/news/2022/07/011113.html
The Urvansky District Court in Kabardino-Balkaria approved a decision to bring to administrative responsibility the local religious organization “Church of Adventist Christians of the Seventh Day” in the city of Nartkala. The church was fined 30,000 rubles for illegal religious activities.
01.07.2022 – Tomsk Regional Court replaced Seversk-Based Andrey Kolesnichenko’s four-year prison sentence with a suspended sentence
Link to full text in Russian: https://jw-russia.org/news/2022/07/011108.html
On June 30, 2022, the Tomsk Regional Court, chaired by Judge Andrey Kaplyuk, mitigated the sentence imposed by the court of first instance and replaced Andrey Kolesnichenko, 52, having changed four years in a penal colony for four years of probation.
The hearing was held via video-conferencing, as Kolesnichenko is in a pre-trial detention center in the city of Kolpashevo, which is more than 300 kilometers from Seversk. After the decision of the Court of Appeal, the believer was released. The verdict has entered into force. Kolesnichenko has the right to appeal against it in the cassation procedure.
01.07.2022 – The Investigative Committee announced the completion of the investigation into the case of ten Jehovah’s Witnesses from Vladivostok
Sova Center – On July 1, 2022, the Investigation Department of the Russian Investigative Committee for the Primorsky Territory announced the completion of the investigation into the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The defendants in this case, initiated back in 2018, are ten residents of Vladivostok.
According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Igor Lonchakov and Yuri Redozubov are accused of organizing the activities of an extremist organization (Part 1, Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code). Nina Astvatsaturova, Elena Barmakina, Ludviga Katanaeva, Ekaterina Treguba, Elena Tsorn, Roman and Violetta Verigina are accused of participating in the activities of this organization (Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code). Unfortunately, we do not know the name of the tenth defendant. Earlier it was reported that Eva Katanaeva may also be among the defendants in the case.