Religious persecution and issues – Bimonthly Digest March 01-15


15.03.2024 – The Court in Chuvashia announced the verdict for faith to one of the oldest prisoners of conscience. 


JW – On March 15, 2024, the case against one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Yuriy Yuskov, who will become 86 less than in a month, was completed in the Novocheboksarsk City Court of the Chuvash Republic. Judge Aleksandr Zubov sentenced him to 5 years of suspended sentence with a 4-year probation period and 1 year and 4 months of restriction of freedom.


According to the investigation, Yuriy Yuskov is guilty of participating in the activities of an extremist organization and involvement in it, as he “carried out preaching activities, conducting conversations and teaching religious teaching.” He was also accused, without evidence, of promoting the rupture of family relations.


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14.03.2024 – The state prosecutor requested punishment for Jehovah’s Witnesses from Votkinsk


Sova – On March 11, 2024, in the Votkinsk District Court of the Udmurt Republic, the state prosecutor requested punishment for Jehovah’s Witnesses Sergei Gobozev and Mikhail Potapov, accused of organizing the activities of an extremist organization (Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code).


The prosecutor asked to sentence them to six and a half years of imprisonment in a general regime colony. In addition, the state prosecutor requested additional penalties in the form of a five-year deprivation of the right to engage in activities related to participation in the work of religious organizations, as well as one year of restriction of freedom.


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13.03.2024 – Religious freedom survey, March 2024


Forum 18 – Freedom of religion and belief, with interlinked freedoms of expression, association, assembly, and other fundamental freedoms remain seriously restricted in Russia. Forum 18’s survey analysis ahead of the forthcoming presidential election documents freedom of religion or belief violations including: “extremism”-related criminal prosecutions and jailings of Jehovah’s Witnesses and of Muslims who meet to study the works of Said Nursi; torture, and impunity for torture; prisoners of conscience deprived of Russian citizenship and deported after their sentence; and prosecuting, fining, and jailing Russians who protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from a religious perspective.


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11.03.2024 – Court in Maykop sentenced Inver Siyukhov to six years in prison for talking about Jehovah God


JW – On March 7, 2024, Bella Stash, judge of the Maykop City Court of the Republic of Adygea, sentenced one of Jehovah’s Witnesses — Inver Siyukhov, 49, — to 6 years in prison in a penal colony. The court equated the exercise of the right to profess one’s religion with the organization of the activities of an extremist organization.


In addition, the court deprived the believer of the right to engage in educational activities and activities related to leadership and participation in religious public associations and organizations for a period of four years, and also imposed restriction of liberty for a period of one year after serving the main sentence.


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11.03.2024 – The case against the publication of the Falun Dafa Information Center was dropped


Sova – On February 8, 2024, the St. Petersburg City Court canceled the decision of the Kalininsky District Court of St. Petersburg dated November 17, 2023 imposing a fine of 50 thousand rubles on the periodical publication of the Falun Dafa Information Center. The case was sent for a new trial.


The district court found the publication guilty under Art. 20.33 of the Administrative Code (participation in the activities of a foreign or international non-governmental organization in respect of which a decision was made to recognize its activities as undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation). The offense was that the Falun Dafa Information Center “posted information about international non-governmental organizations affiliated and controlled by Falun Gong,” included in the list of undesirables in Russia.


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07.03.2024 – The FSB reported that an attack on a synagogue in Moscow was stopped


Sova – On March 7, 2024, the Public Relations Center of the Federal Security Service reported that in the Kaluga region, the activities of a cell of the terrorist organization ISIS in Afghanistan, banned in Russia, “Vilayat Khorasan”, whose members were planning to commit a terrorist act in Moscow, were suppressed.


According to the department, they planned to shoot synagogue parishioners with firearms.

They were identified when they collected the necessary information. When detained, the attackers offered armed resistance and were eliminated by return fire. A criminal case has been opened regarding the preparation of a terrorist attack. Firearms, ammunition, and components for making an improvised explosive device were found and confiscated from the suspects.”



07.03.2024 – 9 Jehovah’s Witnesses convicted of extremism for practicing faith in Russia


Religion news – Nine Jehovah’s Witnesses were convicted of extremism by a Russian court on Tuesday (March 5), receiving sentences of up to seven years in a penal colony for practicing their faith. Of those convicted, eight had already served more than two years in pretrial detention, often in solitary confinement, according to a spokesperson for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They plan to appeal the decision.


“Either I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses or I am an extremist. It is impossible to be both at the same time,” Aleksey Solnechny said in Russian at court on Jan. 24, where he received a seven-year sentence. “And I declare: I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but I am not an extremist!”


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06.03.2023 – In Magadan, the Court sentenced 13 Jehovah’s Witnesses to suspended sentences from 3 to 7 years


JW – One of the most massive cases for the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, in which the investigation and trial lasted almost six years, ended in a guilty verdict. On March 6, 2024, Judge Tatyana Belayeva of the Magadan City Court sentenced believers aged 31 to 73 to a suspended sentence.


Sergey Yerkin, Konstantin Petrov and Ivan Puyda received 7 years, Yevgeniy Zyablov received 5 years, Sergey Agadzhanov, Viktor Revyakin, Mikhail and Oksana Solntsev, Irina Khvostova, Lyubov Asatryan, Galina Dergacheva, Inna Kardakova and Galina Pechko received 3 years — all suspended with a probationary period of 2 to 5 years. As an additional punishment, believers were assigned restriction of freedom from 10 months to 1 year.


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06.03.2024 – A Court in Oryol sentenced Tatyana Piskareva, 67, to two years and six months of forced labor for participating in peaceful worship. 


JW – Tatyana Piskareva, a pensioner from Oryol, was found guilty of participating in the activities of an extremist organization because of her faith. On March 1, 2024, Dmitriy Sukhov, judge of the Sovetskiy District Court of Oryol, sentenced her to 2 years and 6 months of forced labor.


The believer’s case continues the trend of persecuting several family members at once: Tatyana’s husband, Vladimir, received 6 years in prison under an extremist article and is now awaiting an appeal. He was arrested after searches in December 2020 and has been behind bars ever since. There he suffered several hypertensive crises and a stroke; he was diagnosed with coronary artery disease. Tatyana said: “I wanted to help my husband when he had a crisis, and I could not help in any way. It was painful to watch the inaction of the pre-trial detention center.”


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06.03.2024 – The Muslim community in Samara obtained ownership of a mosque through the court


Sova – On February 27, 2024, it became known that the Arbitration Court of the Samara Region satisfied the claim of the local Muslim religious organization “Name of Khusain” against the department of urban planning, the mayor’s office and the administration of the Kuibyshevsky district of Samara for recognition of ownership of the mosque building on Kryazhskoe Highway.


The religious organization went to court in the summer of 2023.

The site on the Kryazhskoye Highway was provided to the community in 1992, at which time a permit was issued for the construction of a mosque. The building was built, connected to communications, and in 2020 put on cadastral registration.


The Samara City Hall indicated in its response that it leaves the issue of recognition of ownership rights to the discretion of the court. An examination carried out as part of the trial established that the building complies with current urban planning standards and regulations, sanitary and epidemiological standards and fire safety requirements. The court granted the claim of the religious organization.



05.03.2024 – One more sentence for faith in Tolyatti. The Court gave a suspended sentence to 62-year-old Yelena Kozhevnikova


JW – On March 4, 2024, the judge of the Central District Court of the city of Tolyatti, Irina Onuchina, found Yelena Kozhevnikova guilty of extremism and sentenced her to 2 years of suspended sentence for “active participation in the activities of the religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses through video conferencing.”


The prosecutor requested 4 years of imprisonment for the believer.

In her attitude to the accusation, Kozhevnikova stated that she does not pose any public danger, as she respects people of any nationality and religion, the laws of the state. “This is taught by the Bible, which for me is the most important law,” the believer emphasized. “I do not think that talking about God and biblical principles in any way violates the constitutional order or poses a threat to state security.”


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01.03.2024 – The Court in Teykovo considered the usual religious practice of Jehovah’s Witnesses to be extremism.


JW – On February 29, 2024, the judge of the Teikovo District Court of the Ivanovo Region, Sergey Kochetkov, sentenced Vladimir Spivak, Aleksandr Vasichkin, Sergey Galyamin and Anatoliy Lyamo to large fines for their religion.


None of the convicts pleaded guilty. They can appeal the verdict. The state prosecutor asked to impose fines from 700,000 to 1,200,000 rubles on the men. The court fined the believers slightly less: Vladimir Spivak 600,000, Sergey Galyamin 650,000, Aleksandr Vasichkin and Anatoliy Lyamo 1,100,000 rubles each.


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