Religious persecution and issues – Bimonthly Digest Dec 16-31


29.12.2023 – In the Krasnoyarsk Territory, Aleksandr Polozov and Stepan Shevelev received 6 years of suspended sentence for peaceful beliefs


JW – On December 29, 2023, Norilsk City Court Judge Sergey Kurunin sentenced two local Jehovah’s Witnesses, Aleksandr Polozov and Stepan Shevelev, to 6 years of suspended sentence. According to the prosecution, they entered into a “criminal conspiracy” to study the Bible.


The criminal prosecution of the men began back in October 2019, when special police surrounded the camp site, where believers were resting with friends. A criminal case was initiated against Aleksandr Polozov under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (organization of the activities of an extremist organization), and in May 2021, Stepan Shevelev became his second defendant.


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28.12.2023 – In Sevastopol, a student is sentenced to compulsory labor for insulting the feelings of believers


Sova – The reason for the persecution was certain statements in a group chat.

On December 21, 2023, the Gagarinsky District Court of Sevastopol considered the appeal against the sentence handed down on November 17 by the magistrate of the Gagarinsky Judicial District to Ilya Filimonenkov, and approved the punishment imposed on him. A 23-year-old Yalta resident, a student at one of the Sevastopol universities, was sentenced to 200 hours of compulsory labor under Part 1 of Art. 148 of the Criminal Code (public actions committed with the aim of insulting the religious feelings of believers).


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28.12.2023 – Statistics on Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2023


Sova – On December 27, 2023, statistical information about the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia in 2023 became known.

According to Jehovah’s Witnesses as of December 25, the number of searches conducted at their Russian co-religionists since the ban was 2,058. During the year, searches took place at 183 addresses in 74 regions, 43 people were detained, 15 were put through pre-trial detention.

The total number of criminal cases brought against Jehovah’s Witnesses since 2017 was 376; during this period, 789 people from 19 to 85 years old were involved in the cases, 205 of whom (26%) were people over 60 years old. By the end of December, 521 believers appeared on the list of Rosfinmonitoring, of which 72 were included in this list during 2023.


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27.12.2023 – Crackdown on Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia continues with new jail sentences, raids


Washington Times – A Russian court sentenced three Jehovah’s Witnesses late last week to prison terms of six and one-half to seven and one-half years, on top of their pre-sentencing detention of 28 months each, the group reported Monday.


The sentences come near the end of a brutal year for members of the Christian group in Russia and were condemned by members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.


A total of 127 Witnesses are in Russian Federation prisons as of Wednesday, the group said.


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27.12.2023 – Third Protestant church liquidated in Russia over past six months – Religious organizations have faced fierce persecution in Russia. On December 8, the Omsk-based Church of Evangelical Christians was officially liquidated.

The process of liquidation of the religious association had started four months before the specified date

The organization was registered in April 2021, Russian media report.

This is the third case of a religious organization being restricted in Omsk in the past six months. This summer, the Evangelical Christian-Baptist church entitled “Bible Mission” in the city of Omsk and the Evangelical Christian church “Novoye Tvorenie” were also ordered to cease operations.



25.12.2023 – A resident of Neftekamsk was fined for possessing the book “Identity of a Muslim”


Sova – Airat Nuraev was found guilty of distributing extremist materials.


On December 22, 2023, the Neftekamsk City Court of the Republic of Bashkortostan fined the owner of the local Muslim clothing and paraphernalia store “Muslim”, Airat Nuraev, three thousand rubles. He was found guilty under Art. 20.29 Code of Administrative Offenses (mass distribution of extremist materials).

The reason for the administrative case was that on December 5, 2023, police and prosecutors, during an inspection of the premises, found on one of the store shelves the book “The Personality of a Muslim, in the form that Islam seeks to give it with the help of the Koran and Sunnah” by Muhammad Ali al- Hashimi, recognized as extremist.


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25.12.2023 – A Court in Moscow handed down a harsh sentence to three of Jehovah’s Witnesses—from six and a half to seven and a half years in prison for their faith


JW – On December 22, 2023, the trial of three Jehovah’s Witnesses from Moscow was completed. For singing religious songs and prayers, the judge of the Cheremushkinsky District Court, Sergey Khomyakov, sentenced the believers to a penal colony: Aleksandr Rumyantsev to 7.5, Sean Pike to 7, and Eduard Sviridov to 6.5 years.


At the end of the summer of 2021, a series of searches took place in the homes of Moscow believers, as a result of which three ended up in a pre-trial detention center. The investigation of the criminal case for 15 months was carried out by an investigator of the Department for the South-Western District of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation. Then the case was considered in court for 13 months. As a result, by the time of the verdict, the believers had spent 2 years and 4 months in a pre-trial detention center.


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20.12.2023 – The Muslim religious community “Alushta” was fined 100 thousand rubles


ovd – The Muslim religious community “Alushta” was fined 100 thousand rubles for storing books by Islamic theologians in a city mosque. Crimean Solidarity reports this .


The Alushta City Court found the organization guilty under the article on the production and distribution of extremist materials (Article 20.29 of the Administrative Code). The reason for drawing up the protocol was two books by Osman Nuri Topbash – “Islam. Faith. Worship” and “Prophet Muhammad-2”, two books by Ali Muhammad al-Salabi, published in the series “History of the Caliphate” – “Abu Bakr al-Siddiq. The First Righteous Caliph” and “Ali ibn Abu Talib” (the first of them is included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials, the second is not), as well as “The Value of Zikr” by Muhammad Zakaria Kandehlavi. The chairman of the community, Abdul Gafarov, stated that some of them were not in the mosque, but at his home, and were seized during the search. The man considers the fine to be pressure on Alushta.


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19.12.2023 –  “Faith forbids him to take up arms, kill, or take oaths”


Forum 18 – Military officials rejected the alternative civilian service applications of four young Baptists in Siberia and the Far East. The four men had all set out their pacifist religious convictions. Brothers Daniil and German Strelkov are preparing to appeal after a court ruled the refusals lawful. Courts twice declined to uphold Zakhar Asmalovsky’s lawsuit against the military authorities. Timofey Reznichenko successfully challenged his refusal in court, gaining the right to have his application re-examined. A higher-level Conscription Commission granted a fifth, Sergey Myalik, the right to undertake alternative service.


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19.12.2023 – Appeal in Blagoveshchensk mitigated the punishment for pensioner Vladimir Balabkin and released him from custody


JW – On December 19, 2023, the Amur Regional Court released 71-year-old Vladimir Balabkin from custody. The court reclassified his actions from Part 1 (organization of extremist activity) to Part 2 (participation in such) of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and imposed 1 year of suspended imprisonment. He had spent 96 days in a pre-trial detention center.


A panel of three judges chaired by Natalya Trofimova considered an appeal against the verdict of the court of first instance, which found Vladimir Balabkin guilty under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The milder second part of the same article made it possible to reclassify the actions of the believer and release him from custody in the courtroom. His sentence is considered suspended.


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19.12.2023 – A court in Novosibirsk sentenced Jehovah’s Witnesses to imprisonment


Sova – Valery Maletskov was sentenced to six years in prison, Marina Chaplykina received four years in prison.

On December 18, 2023, the Novosibirsk District Court of the Novosibirsk Region sentenced Jehovah’s Witnesses Valery Maletskov and Marina Chaplykina. Maletskov was found guilty under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (organizing the activities of an extremist organization) and was sentenced to six years in prison in a general regime colony. The court sentenced Chaplykina to four years in prison under Part 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (participation in the activities of an extremist organization) and Part 1 of Art. 282.3 of the Criminal Code (financing of extremism). The believers were taken into custody in the courtroom.


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18.12.2023 – In the Samara region, two Baptists are accused of “illegal missionary”


Sova – In December 2023, it became known that two Baptist clergy in the Samara region were accused of “illegal missionary.”


On December 14, a court hearing was held in the case of Andrei Gamma, a clergyman of the church in the city of Otradny. He was charged under Art. 5.26 of the Administrative Code (violation of legislation on freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and religious associations). The next meeting is scheduled for December 22.


In the city of Pokhvistnevo, the clergyman of the local church, Vyacheslav Akimov, is accused of the same article. The court hearing took place on December 15, the next one is scheduled for December 27.


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