RUSSIA: Religious persecution and issues – Bimonthly Digest May 16-31

29.05.2024 – The bill banning the privatization of property for religious purposes was adopted in the first reading


Sova – On July 13, 2023, the State Duma adopted in the first reading a bill banning the privatization of religious property that is state or municipal property.

Let us recall that the bill “On Amendments to Article 3 of the Federal Law “On the Privatization of State and Municipal Property” and Article 21 of the Federal Law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations”” provides for a ban on the transfer of religious property from state ownership to all third parties, for with the exception of religious organizations.


As Sergei Gavrilov, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Property, Land and Property Relations, explained, the law on the transfer of state or municipal property to religious organizations, as well as the law on freedom of conscience and on religious associations, do not contain a direct ban on the alienation of religious property appointments in a general manner, so authorities were still able to sell such objects to third parties. Now a ban is being introduced on the transfer of such property, and transactions involving the alienation of religious property made since 2010 will be declared void.


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29.05.2024 – In Moscow, a court declared void a transaction on the transfer of property of Jehovah’s Witnesses to an Austrian organization


Sova – On May 27, 2024, it became known that the Golovinsky District Court of Moscow satisfied the claim of the prosecutor’s office of the Northern Administrative District of the city to invalidate the agreement for the donation of non-residential premises. We are talking about property in Moscow, which the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia donated to the religious association of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Austria.


By court decision, this property was converted into the property of the Russian Federation.

Let us recall that Jehovah’s Witnesses began to transfer the property of their communities to foreign organizations after the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses and 395 local organizations were liquidated as extremist in 2017.


29.05.2024 – A bill banning niqabs has been introduced to the State Duma


Sova – On May 28, 2029, a bill was introduced to the State Duma giving regional and municipal authorities the right to ban the wearing of niqabs and other religious clothing that covers the face.

The developer of the bill was the first deputy head of the New People faction in the State Duma, Vladislav Davankov.


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28.05.2024 – In the Smolensk region, the case of burning a Bible was brought to court


Sova – On April 26, 2024, the Dorogobuzhsky District Court of the Smolensk Region received the case of Mikhail Kirpichenkov and Andrey Kushnerev, accused under Part 3 of Art. 30, part 1 art. 148 of the Criminal Code (attempt to insult the religious feelings of believers). On May 13, the case was transferred for jurisdiction to the magistrate’s court.


From the materials of the cases of Kirpichenkov and Kushnerev on administrative offenses, published on the website of the Dorogobuzh court, and the story of Kushnerev himself to the OVD-Info project, it follows that on February 11, 2024, they set fire to the Bible and began to film the burning process on a mobile phone camera. According to Kushnerev, it was decided to burn the book due to “disagreement with the Russian Orthodox Church.”


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27.05.2024 – In Kuban, a citizen of Tajikistan was fined and expelled from the country for “illegal missionary work.”


Sova – In May 2024, it became known that on April 18, the Tuapse City Court of the Krasnodar Territory fined Tajik citizen Jalili Saidzoda for “illegal missionary work.”


According to the court, Saidzoda “carried out missionary activities in the city of Tuapse without notifying in writing the body authorized to make a decision on the state registration of a religious organization, on the beginning of religious activities, including: on the basics of religion, on the places of worship in his place of residence and on citizens belonging to a religious group.”


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24.05.2024 -In Kotelniki, Muslims were detained during prayer and sent to the military registration and enlistment office


Sova – On May 24, 2024, police officers and the Lyubertsy military registration and enlistment office conducted a raid, during which they came to the prayer house in 2nd Pokrovsky Proezd Kotelnikov. At this time, Friday prayer was being held there.


The security forces removed all the men from the premises and took many of them to the military registration and enlistment office, from where they were immediately sent to a collection point.


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24.05.2024 – In Izhevsk, a case was initiated against the pastor under Art. 239 CC


Sova – On February 2, 2024, it became known that a case was being investigated in Izhevsk under Part 1 of Art. 239 of the Criminal Code (creation of a religious association whose activities involve violence against citizens or other harm to their health, as well as management of such an association). The accused is the leader of a religious organization.

We are talking about the pastor of the Local religious organization of Christians of the evangelical faith (Pentecostals) “Church “Light of the World”” Sergei Artemyev.


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23.05.2024 – Greek Catholic parish liquidated in Omsk


Sova – On May 22, 2024, the Omsk Regional Court granted the claim of the regional department of the Ministry of Justice for the liquidation of the local Greek Catholic parish of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose minister was accused under two articles of the Criminal Code. The reason for the liquidation was some gross violations of federal legislation.


The violations, which the Ministry of Justice considered irreparable, were “identified during a joint inspection of the department, the prosecutor’s office of the Omsk region and the FSB directorate for the Omsk region.”


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22.05.2024 – Court of Appeal in Samara upheld the verdict of four believers: 7 years imprisonment


JW – On May 20, 2024, the Samara Regional Court upheld the harsh sentence of Aram Danielyan, Denis Kuzyanin, Sergey Polosenko and Nikolay Vasilyev, who will have to spend 7 years in a penal colony for peaceful religious activity.


In the appeal, the defense drew the court’s attention to the fact that the believers were charged with organizing the activity of a Samara legal entity liquidated by a separate court decision in 2014. Therefore, the verdict could not be based on the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, only issued a few years later, in 2017. Peacefully singing religious songs, praying, and pronouncing the name of God, Jehovah, cannot be considered as evidence of extremist actions. Despite the arguments of the defense, the court denied the appeal of the defendants, who attended the hearing via video link from the pre-trial detention center.


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20.05.2024 – In Abakan, the court confiscated a plot of land from Pentecostals


Sova- In April 2024, it became known that on March 28, the Abakan City Court satisfied the bailiff’s claim against the local religious organization of Christians of the Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals) “Church of Glorification” for the seizure of a land plot for debts.

The fine was imposed on the church in July 2022; the religious organization did not pay it. Taking into account penalties, the amount of debt amounted to 849,082 rubles 16 kopecks. It is not known why the community was fined.


The Abakan court seized a plot of land to settle the debt, and also collected a state duty of 300 rubles from the religious organization.


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17.05.2024 – The head of a religious organization in Mordovia was fined for “illegal” missionary work


Sova – On May 15, 2024, it became known that in the Krasnoslobodsky district of Mordovia, the court fined the 66-year-old head of a Christian center under Part 3 of Art. 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (carrying out activities by a religious organization without indicating its full official name, including the production or distribution within the framework of missionary activities of literature, printed, audio and video materials without marking with the specified name or with incomplete or deliberately false marking).


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17.05.2024 – Viktor Stashevskiy can become the first Jehovah’s Witness to be sent from penal colony to prison for fictitious violations


JW – On May 2, 2024, the judge of the Apsheronskiy District Court of the Krasnodar Territory ruled to satisfy the colony’s submission and transfer Viktor Stashevskiy from the colony to prison for 3 years.


According to the law, those who are convicted of especially dangerous crimes, such as terrorism, hostage-taking, massacres, etc. should be sent prisons. Conditions in prisons are much more difficult than in colonies: prisoners are in cramped, locked cells, often solitary confinement. If convicts in colonies live in barracks and move freely around the territory, then possibility to walk in prison is strictly limited – for example, walks take place under escort in a small courtyard, over which a grate or barbed wire is fixed. Also, in prison, convicts cannot work and study any specialty.


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17.05.2024 – The court in Primorye once again refused to transfer shaman Gabyshev to a softer type of treatment


Sova – On May 16, 2024, it became known that the Ussuriysky District Court of the Primorsky Territory again refused to transfer the Yakut shaman Alexander Gabyshev from a specialized psychiatric hospital to a general psychiatric hospital.

Psychiatrists insisted on transferring Gabyshev to a milder type of treatment, but the court decided to reject the request to change compulsory medical measures