Religious persecution and issues – Bimonthly Digest February 01-15


12.02.2024 – Vilen Avanesov, convicted of believing in Jehovah God, was released after almost five years behind bars


JW- On February 9, 2024, Vilen Avanesov was released from Penal colony No. 3 in Dimitrovgrad, having served his sentence imposed by the court. For talking about God with friends at home, the elderly believer spent 2.5 years in a pre-trial detention center and more than 2 years in a penal colony.


In the penal colony, Vilen served his sentence together with his son Arsen, who will have to spend another year in prison. Both were involved in the sewing industry. For their hard work, they received several rewards. Largely due to Vilen’s philanthropy, he developed friendly relations with his cellmates and the administration. “He was respected in the pre-trial detention center, respected in the colony,” said Vilen’s wife, Stella.


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12.02.2024 – A case of illegal migration has been opened against a Muslim organization in Moscow.


Sova – On February 12, 2024, a criminal case was opened in Moscow under Part 2 of Art. 322.1 of the Criminal Code (organization of illegal migration committed by an organized group of persons). The case was initiated following a complaint from residents of the Nizhny Novgorod region who were dissatisfied with their proximity to a Muslim organization.


The resolution to initiate a criminal case states that “in the approximate period from 04/01/2022 to 12/23/2023, acting as part of an organized group, unidentified persons from among the employees of MROM “Hafizlyk” and other unidentified persons organized an illegal stay in the Russian Federation under address: Moscow, Basovskaya St., 1, at least 10 foreign citizens, and officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, acting as part of the same organized group, using their official position… did not respond in a timely manner to repeated requests from the residents of the said house… ” .


We would like to remind you that, following an inspection based on the complaint, the Investigative Committee refused to initiate a criminal case against the religious organization, but the Chairman of the Investigative Committee, A. Bastrykin, ordered an additional investigation.



12.02.2024 – Jehovah’s Witness from Maykop asked to be sentenced to nine years in prison


Sova – Inver Siyukhov is accused of organizing the activities of a banned community.

On February 9, 2023, in the Maikop City Court of the Republic of Adygea, a debate was held between the parties in the case of Jehovah’s Witness Inver Siyukhov, accused under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (organization of the activities of an extremist organization). The state prosecutor asked to sentence him to nine years in prison.


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12.02.2024 – Archpriest Alexy Uminsky was defrocked for refusing to read the prayer “On Holy Rus’”


Sova – On January 13, 2024, the Moscow Diocesan Court issued a decision in the case of Archpriest Alexy Uminsky. The court was uttered by Fr. Alexy from the priesthood for violating the 25th Rule of the Holy Apostles – violation of the priestly oath.

The reason for this decision was the refusal to read the prayer “On Holy Rus’” prescribed by the patriarch.

The priest did not come to any of the three court hearings; the decision was made in his absence.

On February 8, the decision of the church court was approved by the patriarch.

Let us recall that earlier Moscow priest John Koval was defrocked for a similar “swearing” .


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12.02.2024 – The Supreme Court of Tatarstan approved the conviction of Sergey Gromov.


JW – On February 9, 2024, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Tatarstan rejected the appeal of Jehovah’s Witness Sergey Gromov against the sentence and upheld it—6 years and 1 month of imprisonment in a penal colony. The believer can appeal this decision to the court of cassation.

In the appeal, the defendant’s lawyer emphasized that such a verdict was unconstitutional: “The court of first instance did not protect Gromov from religious discrimination against Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Three other Jehovah’s Witnesses from Tatarstan were sentenced to various terms in penal colonies, a total of 13 residents of this region are persecuted for their faith.



09.02.2024 – Repression of Falun Gong continues in Russia


Bitter Winter – Falun Gong in Russia is part of the long list of “undesirable” organizations. After the war of aggression against Ukraine was started in 2022, Russian laws were amended and organizing, participating in, and even promoting or simply displaying symbols of undesirable organizations on social media are now crimes punished with jail or labor camp penalties. In practice, “undesirable” and “extremist” organizations are now dealt with in a similar way.


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09.02.2024 – A new wave of searches of Jehovah’s Witnesses took place in Birobidzhan.


JW- 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 February 6, 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 resident in question is a young man from the village of Amurzet, located 200 km from Birobidzhan.


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08.02.2024 – Searches of Jehovah’s Witnesses were conducted in the Nizhny Novgorod region


Sova – A case was initiated under Part 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code.

On February 7, 2024, it became known that  Jehovah’s Witnesses were searched in Nizhny Novgorod . Investigative actions were carried out within the framework of a criminal case initiated under Part 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (participation in the activities of an extremist organization).


It is reported that about 15 believers are involved in the case. They conducted searches in Gorodets, Shakhunya and Vakhtan (an urban-type settlement within the Shakhunya urban district).


As Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves later clarified, the searches took place at at least seven addresses; The security forces generally behaved correctly, but an ambulance was called twice for one elderly believer, and he was eventually hospitalized.

It is unclear whether there are suspects or defendants in the case.



06.02.2024 – The third appeal in the Case of Dmitriy Barmakin sentenced him to 8 years for peaceful religious beliefs


JW – On February 6, 2024, another appeal upheld the conviction of Dmitriy Barmakin: 8 years in a penal colony for believing in God. He was taken into custody in the courtroom.


The litigation of the peaceful believer has been going on for more than 4.5 years — since June 2019. During this time, he was acquitted and then convicted again, he spent 550 days behind bars, separated from his wife, who is also on trial for her faith. This was the first incident when the law enforcement began to practice criminal prosecution across family members.


Although the 2017 Supreme Court decision to liquidate legal entities does not prohibit Jehovah’s Witnesses from practicing their religion, almost 800 believers have already been prosecuted, and the number of searches has exceeded 2,000.


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02.02.2024 – 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.


Probably, 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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