RUSSIA: Religious persecution and issues – Bimonthly Digest June 01-15


16.06.2024 – Russia tries to erase evangelical churches from occupied Ukraine

Wall Street Journal – The church’s erasure from view is part of a sweeping crackdown inside Russian-held territory on religious groups that aren’t under Moscow’s control, especially the evangelical Christian faiths the Kremlin considers instruments of U.S. influence in Ukraine.

Mykhailo Brytsyn, the church’s Baptist pastor, said he was questioned by Russian soldiers for four hours and told: “You don’t run a church. You run a nest of American spies.”

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14.06.2024 – In St. Petersburg, Baptists received access to the building of the House of Gospel

Sova – In June 2024, it became known that the Baptists of St. Petersburg gained access to the building of the House of the Gospel, the struggle for which continued for several years.

The community received the keys to the building on May 16, and on May 18 the first service since 1930 took place.

Let us remind you that for several years Baptists could not gain access to their house of worship, since the building is surrounded by the territory of the Elektroapparat plant. The Association of Evangelical Christian Baptist Churches in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region even went to court to defend the right to the building.

Now the community is starting to rebuild the Gospel House.


12.06.2024 – The appeal upholds the verdict for faith to Yelena Chernykh from Prokopyevsk – three years suspended


JW – On June 11, 2024, the sentence for Yelena Chernykh, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses from Prokopyevsk, entered into force. The judicial board of the Kemerovo Regional Court agreed with the three-year suspended sentence assigned to her but excluded from the additional punishment the deprivation of the right to participate in public and religious associations.

“The court has not established that I have any motives of religious hatred or enmity. All my actions were completely peaceful,” said the believer, 47, as she appealed. “I believe in God, talk to others about the Bible, share my beliefs with them, pray to Jehovah God, sing songs of praise to him.” Yelena concluded that she was convicted for the usual profession of faith for Jehovah’s Witnesses, and not for any extremist actions.

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11.06.2024 – Olga Ivanova, convicted in 2021 for believing in God, released from a penal colony in Zelenokumsk

JW – After spending a little more than 2 years and 3 months in a penal colony, Olga Ivanova, a 41-year-old Jehovah’s Witness, was released on June 11, 2024. She has served her sentence in full.

In correctional colony No. 7 in the Stavropol Territory, Ivanova had to work hard in the cutting shop. Her mother said: “I was so tired that in the morning I wanted to cry, because I didn’t rest during the night, and I had to go back to work for 12 hours. Work even on Saturday, one day off.” For health reasons, Olga has been released from work in the shop for the past few months.

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11.06.2024 – A resident of Derbent was fined for possessing a banned book

Sova – In early June, it became known that on April 24, 2024, the Derbent City Court of the Republic of Dagestan fined local resident Kamil Suleymanov one thousand rubles. He was found guilty under Art. 20.29 Code of Administrative Offenses (mass distribution of extremist materials).

The reason for drawing up an administrative protocol against Suleymanov was the possession of two copies of a banned book by Safi al-Rahman al-Mubarakfuri entitled “The Life of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace” (translated from Arabic by Abdullah Nirsha). As stated in the court ruling, a resident of Derbent put the book up for sale in a store.

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10.06.2024 – One of Jehovah’s Witnesses from Izhevsk placed in pre-trial detention center after searches

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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10.06.2024 – Cassation Court in Kemerovo left Pavel Kazadaev behind bars

Sova – Pavel Kazadaev from Barnaul will remain in a penal colony to serve his sentence — On June 6, 2024, the Eighth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction in Kemerovo approved the verdict and appeal decision in the case of the believer.

In August 2023, Kazadaev’s case took an unexpected turn: instead of the 3-year suspended sentence imposed by the court, the court of appeal, satisfying the prosecutor’s petition, sent the believer to a colony for the same period.


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10.06.2024 – WSJ: Russia aims to erase evangelical churches from occupied Ukraine

Euromaidanpress – Russia is engaged in a sweeping crackdown against evangelical Christian churches and religious groups in areas of Ukraine it has occupied, part of a campaign by Moscow to assert dominance over the territories and reshape them in its own authoritarian image, according to WSJ.

Ukrainian and US officials along with clergymen report that evangelical pastors have been disproportionately affected in Russian occupied areas, with dozens abducted, tortured, and forced into exile from their hometowns. In one instance, a deacon from a Pentecostal church in Kherson Oblast and his 19-year-old son were found dead in a forest in the fall of 2022 following their arrest by Russian forces.

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07.06.2024 – The case against Jehovah’s Witnesses from Kovrov was brought to court

Sova – The believer is accused of participating in the activities of an extremist organization.

On June 7, 2024, the office of the Investigative Committee for the Vladimir Region announced the completion of the investigation into the criminal case against Jehovah’s Witnesses from Kovrov, and the materials were transferred to the court. The believer is accused under Part 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (participation in the activities of an extremist organization).

According to investigators, the accused has been a member of the local cell of Jehovah’s Witnesses since 2009 and continued his participation in it until August 2023, despite the ban on the organization as extremist. In particular, the believer participated in religious meetings and preached, he had the status of a “ministerial servant” in the organization.

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04.06.2024 – One of convicted Jehovah’s Witnesses from Akhtubinsk was tortured

JW – A resident of the Astrakhan region, Rinat Kiramov, sentenced to 7 years in prison for his beliefs, was tortured in medical correctional institution No. 3 of the Tula region, as he was demanded to incriminate his fellow believers. This is stated in the appeal of Kiramov’s lawyer to the prosecutor’s office.

In April last year, Rinat Kiramov and two other believers were convicted of talking with friends on biblical topics. Rinat Kiramov was sent to serve his sentence in colony No. 6 of the Tula region. However, on April 18, 2024, Kiramov was transferred to the medical correctional institution No. 3 of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia in the Tula Region in connection with the suspicion of tuberculosis.

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04.06.2024 – Russia: Towards a liquidation of the Greek Catholic Church?

Bitter Winter – Then they came for the Catholics. The Greek Catholic Church, i.e., the Eastern church that maintains the Greek traditions and liturgy but is in full communion with Rome, is not banned in Russia. Several of its parishes operate in the Omsk region.

There, however, the FSB raided last April the Greek Catholic Parish of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and detained its priest, 57-year-old Father Igor Maksimov, charging him with the crimes of “insulting the religious feelings of believers in places intended for worship” and “rehabilitation of Nazism.”

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03.06.2024 – Russian Human Rights Commissioner acknowledged the detention of two UGCC clergymen by Russia

Risu – This was reported by the News of Zaporizhzhia.

The statement likely refers to two priests from Berdyansk, Ivan Levytsky and Bohdan Geleta, of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

As usual for the Russian side, the statement was accompanied by manipulations and accusations against Ukraine, alleging that it has ignored requests for the exchange of both the clergymen and 500 Ukrainian military personnel held captive.

The report even included a quote from the Kremlin’s captives, expressing the clergymen’s sole desire to see their families as soon as possible.

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