Religious persecution and issues – Bimonthly Digest Aug 01-15


15.08.2023 – Two Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced in Taiga

Sova Center – Yuri Usanov and Maxim Morozov were found guilty under Part 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code.

On August 15, 2023, the Taiginsky City Court of the Kemerovo Region sentenced Jehovah’s Witnesses Yuri Usanov and Maxim Morozov to three years in a penal colony and six months of restricted freedom under Part 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (participation in the activities of an extremist organization). At the same time, the court took into account the time spent by believers under arrest and released them in the courtroom.

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14.08.2023 – Mormon fined in Novocherkassk for “illegal missionary work”

Sova Center – On August 10, 2023, it became known that the world court in Novocherkassk found a minister of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints guilty under Part 4 of Art. 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (carrying out missionary activities in violation of the requirements of the legislation on freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and religious associations). Andrei Mozol was fined 50 thousand rubles.

What exactly was the offense, is not reported. The prosecutor’s office of Novocherkassk filed a lawsuit with the court.

The church building was closed in June 2023 due to fire safety violations.


14.08.2023 – The Supreme Lama of Kalmykia is recognized as a foreign agent

Sova Center – On January 27, 2023, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation included the honorary representative of the Dalai Lama in Russia, the CIS countries and Mongolia – the Supreme Lama of Kalmykia Telo Tulku Rinpoche (Erdni Ombadykov) in the register of individuals acting as a foreign agent. This is the first time a religious figure has been recognized as a foreign agent.

The reason for including him in this list was that he “spoke out against the special military operation in Ukraine and openly spoke in support of Ukraine, is a US citizen. Lives outside the Russian Federation.

On January 28, Telo Tulku Rinpoche delegated authority to Geshe Tendzin Choydak (Mutul Ovyanov) and Gelong administrator Yonten Lodoy (Sergey Kirishov) of the Kalmyk Central Buddhist Monastery Geden Sheddup Choi Korling.

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12.08.2023 – Russian Orthodox priests face persecution from state and church for supporting peace in Ukraine – Standing in an old Orthodox church in Antalya with a Bible in one hand and a candle in the other, the Rev. Ioann Koval led one of his first services in Turkey after Russian Orthodox Church leadership decided to defrock him following his prayer for peace in Ukraine.

Last September, when President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization of reservists, Moscow Patriarch Kirill required his clergymen to pray for victory. Standing in front of the altar and dozens of his parishioners in one of Moscow’s churches, Koval decided to put the peace above the patriarch’s orders.

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09.08.2023 – Another criminal case against a Jehovah’s Witness initiated in Barnaul

Sova Center – On July 10, 2023, a criminal case was initiated in Barnaul under Part 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (participation in an extremist organization) against Jehovah’s Witness Valery Klokov.

On July 29, his house was searched, he was detained and taken for interrogation to the investigative department of the Russian Investigative Committee for the Altai Territory, and on July 31, the court appointed him a measure of restraint in the form of house arrest. The investigation believes that since 2021, Klokov and other unidentified persons “carried out actions to support the existence of the local religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses Barnaul,” including by holding conversations in order to promote the activities of this organization, participating in events held by representatives of the organization.”

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09.08.2023 – Russia, Cassation confirms a two years and six months sentence of a Jehovah’s Witness

The European Times – On 27 July 2023, the Fourth General Jurisdiction Court of Cassation upheld the sentence and appeal ruling against Aleksandr Nikolaev, a resident of Kholmskaya – 2 years and 6 months in prison. At the same time, the court cancelled the additional freedom restriction, which is imposed on the convict after serving the main term.

On 23 December 2021, the Abinsk District Court of the Krasnodar Territory found him guilty of participating in the activities of an extremist organization for reading the Bible and discussing religious issues in private with relatives and friends. The investigation considered it was “a crime against the foundations of the constitutional order and the security of the state” and initiated a criminal case on the grounds under Part 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

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07.08.2023 – Counterfeit forms of Russian Orthodoxy as a challenge to religious freedom

Risu – The war in Ukraine has demonstrated the critical importance of religious freedom in safeguarding national identity and state sovereignty. In a direct sense, the war in Ukraine is a war for freedom, including, and even primarily, religious freedom. Ukraine showcases a consistent commitment to a model where freedom is intertwined with peaceful religious diversity, and they are willing to sacrifice to defend this way of life.

What is surprising is that even amid this dreadful war, many leaders of opinion in Europe and the United States remain in the shadow of the Kremlin and under the spell of Russian Orthodox mythology. It’s not just Russian propaganda at work here; there’s also a sense of disillusionment with Western Christianity, weariness from freedom and its complexities, and a certain naivety towards the mystery and profundity of chronicled Russian spirituality.

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07.08.2023 – Court in Yugorsk acquitted Jehovah’s Witnesses Ivan Sorokin and Andrey Zhukov

JW – On August 7, 2023, Yuriy Klyupa, judge of the Yugorskiy District Court of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area—Yugra completed the consideration of the case of Ivan Sorokin and Andrey Zhukov and acquitted them. The believers were found not guilty of extremism. The prosecutor requested the court to sentence Sorokin to 9 years, and Zhukov —8.5 years in a penal colony.

In August 2020, a series of searches took place in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area. A total of 16 people were interrogated; Sorokin and Zhukov were sent to a temporary detention facility, and a day later they were released under a recognizance agreement. A criminal case was initiated against them under Parts 1 and 1.1 of Art. 282.2 of the RF Criminal Code (organizing the activity of an extremist organization and involving others in it).

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04.08.2023 – The Court of Cassation in the Krasnodar Territory left one of Jehovah’s Witness Aleksandr Nikolayev behind bars

JW – On July 27, 2023, the Fourth General Jurisdiction Court of Cassation upheld the sentence and appeal ruling against Aleksandr Nikolayev, a resident of Kholmskaya – 2 years and 6 months in a penal colony. However, the court canceled the additional restriction of freedom following the main term imposed on the convict.

On December 23, 2021, the Abinsk District Court of the Krasnodar Territory found the believer guilty of participating in the activity of an extremist organization for peacefully practicing the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses and sentenced him to 2.5 years in a penal colony. The court of appeal upheld this decision.

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03.08.2023 – Two new generation pastors sentenced in Moscow

Bitter Winter – Nikolai Ulitin and Svyatoslav Yugov should remain in jail for another three and a half years.

On July 18, Russian media reported that Pastors Nikolai Ulitin and Svyatoslav Yugov of the New Generation Church have been sentenced by a court in the Moscow region. They should remain in jail for another three and a half years. Reportedly, the defendants feared a harsher sentence, and were glad to escape with a comparatively short jail term.

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