RUSSIA: Religious persecution and issues – Bimonthly Digest November 16-30

30.11.2023 – The Cassation Court left Andrey Danielyan from Rubtsovsk in prison

JW – On November 30, 2023, the panel of judges of the Eighth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction in Kemerovo, having considered Andrey Danielyan’s complaint, finally approved the sentence of the first instance—6 years in a penal colony.


19 people who came to support Danielyan were admitted to the hearing. While the panel of judges was in the deliberation room, the audience was able to greet the believer participating in the meeting via video conferencing.


A year earlier, Judge Aleksey Bezrukov of the Rubtsovsk City Court of the Altai Territory found Danielyan guilty of extremism for discussing the Bible among fellow believers. And in January 2023, the Altai Regional Court approved this verdict.

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29.11.2023 – Fourth post-prison Jehovah’s Witness deportation

Forum 18 – Despite living half his life in Russia and marriage to a Russian citizen, 46-year-old Jehovah’s Witness Rustam Seidkuliyev was deported to his native Turkmenistan in September after completing his jail term for exercising freedom of religion or belief. Officials did not explain to Forum 18 why his Russian citizenship had been annulled in 2022, given his long residence in Russia, that there were no victims in his criminal case, and that his family had had to leave Turkmenistan because of their exercise of freedom of religion or belief.

The Russian authorities have deported a fourth Jehovah’s Witness after annulling his Russian citizenship and barring him from re-entering the country. Migration officials put 46-year-old Rustam Seidkuliyev on a flight to his birthplace of Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, on the evening of 16 September, some five months after he was released from prison.

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29.11.2023 – Searches in the Kuril Islands. A criminal case initiated against two women for their faith

JW – On November 23, 2023, on Iturup Island security forces searched the homes of two women who profess the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. From Olga Kalinnikova, 47, and Larisa Potapova, 59, a written undertaking not to leave was taken.


A three-hour search took place in the apartment of Olga Kalinnikova, who lives with her minor daughter in the city of Kurilsk. Operational actions were led by the investigator of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Sakhalin Region K. P. Deshko. Electronic devices, various data storage devices, notebooks and personal records were seized from Kalinnikova. According to her, law enforcement officers spoke rudely about the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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27.11.2023 – New armed terror against independent religious community in Russian-occupied Crimea – The Russian occupation authorities have jailed three Crimean Tatars linked with the ‘Alushta’ religious community which has long been under attack for its religious independence

From left Yusuf Ashirov, Villen Useinov, Zinur Appazov Photos posted by Crimean Solidarity

Three Crimean Tatars, including the Imam of the ‘Alushta’ Muslim Community, were jailed on 23 November after armed searches of the men’s homes. The charges in each case were absurd, with one of the men jailed for ten days over a video posted on the social network VKontakte in 2013, before Russia’s invasion of Crimea. This is the latest of many attacks under Russian occupation on the independent ‘Alushta’ Muslim Community.

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27.11.2023 – In Moscow, the case of two Muslims accused of studying the banned books of Said Nursi has been brought to court.

Sova – Zurab Dzhabrailov and Jeyhun Rustamov are accused of involvement in an extremist organization.

On November 27, 2023, the Main Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee for the city of Moscow announced the transfer of a criminal case to the court under the CC. 1 and 2 tbsp. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (organizing the activities of an extremist organization and participating in it) against two accused.

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24.11.2023 – War and faith in Russia and the former Soviet Union

Pillarcatholic -More than 30 years after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, former Soviet states are still suffering the effects of the war against religion, says one of the founders of an organization formed to record testimonies of the victims of Soviet oppression. Elena Zhemkova helped found Memorial in Moscow in 1987, before the dissolution of the USSR. Over the following decades the charity collected information about more than three million victims of the Soviet regime, including those murdered, imprisoned or deported

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22.11.2023 – Searches of Jehovah’s Witnesses took place in Saratov. Two believers under house arrest

JW – On November 16, 2023, searches were carried out at least at 6 addresses in Saratov. They affected at least 13 believers. Aleksey Vasilyev, 47, and Aleksey Yefremov, 59, were placed in a temporary detention facility, and a day later they were placed under house arrest.

The investigative actions were sanctioned by the Volzhsky District Court of Saratov on November 9, 2023, at the request of investigator Bulat Urazov. The raids began around 6 a. m. and lasted until an average of noon. The security forces seized electronic devices, storage media, personal records and postcards. A passport of a citizen of the Russian Federation was also seized from one of the believers.

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22.11.2023 – Appeal overturned the acquittal of Jehovah’s Witnesses from Yugorsk. The Case of Sorokin and Zhukov will be re-examined

JW- On November 20, 2023, the court of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area granted the prosecutor’s appeal and overturned the acquittal in the case of Ivan Sorokin and Andrey Zhukov.


In August 2023, the judge of the Yugorsk District Court of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area, Yuriy Klyupa, concluded that by professing the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the believers did not violate the law, and acquitted their case.

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21.11.2023 – First sentence for faith was handed down in Tula. Four of Jehovah’s Witnesses received suspended sentences

JW – On November 20, 2023, Nina Panarina, judge of the Proletarsky District Court of Tula, convicted four Jehovah’s Witnesses: Yevgeniy Godunov and Gurami Labadze received 6 years and 6 months suspended each, Yuliya Popkova and Anzhela Putivskaya — 2 years and 6 months suspended.


The believers faced criminal prosecution for their religious beliefs in April 2021, when law enforcement officers conducted a series of searches in Tula and the neighboring city of Kireyevsk. Then they learned that the FSB Directorate for the Tula Region had opened a criminal case against them for organizing the activities of an extremist organization (Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). After searches and interrogations, Gurami Labadze was placed under house arrest.

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20.11.2023 – Police raid on the Balashikha mosque

Sova – On November 17, 2023, a police raid took place at a Muslim prayer house in Balashikha near Moscow during Friday prayers.

Armed security forces, including employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Center “E”, FSB and the prosecutor’s office, surrounded the building in which the house of worship is located, checked the documents of those leaving, and detained some. Some of them were put on a bus to be taken to the military registration and enlistment office.

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17.11.2023 – The Court sentenced a pensioner, Tatyana Sushilnikova, to 4 years suspended. “I’m on trial simply for worshipping to God”

JW- On November 15, 2023, the Kuznetskiy District Court finalized its hearing of the case of Tatyana Sushilnikova, 64, one of Jehovah’s Witness from Novokuznetsk. Judge Valeriya Shipitsyna found her guilty of extremism for peaceful religious practice and sentenced her to 4 years suspended with a probation period of 3 years, as well as 10 months of restriction of liberty after serving the main sentence.


Sushilnikova faced persecution for her faith in June 2021. The armed security forces raided her and her husband Sergey in the early morning. “My husband was put on the floor like some kind of criminal, I was pressed against the wall,” Tatyana recalls

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17.11.2023 – Moldova’s largest Orthodox church keeps link to Russia

Reuters – Moldova’s largest Orthodox church reaffirmed its link to its Russian parent church on Thursday despite dissent from priests who have denounced the association with Moscow over the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

More than 90 percent of Moldovans adhere to Orthodox Christianity. But parishioners are divided between two churches — the Moldova Metropolis, subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Metropolis of Bessarabia, which reports to the Romanian church. Neither has autocephaly, or full independence.

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17.11.2023 – Speech: Over 100 religious sites have been damaged or destroyed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Gov.UK – Thank you, President, and thank you to our briefers.

I also thank the Russian delegation for bringing human rights issues to the Security Council. The United Kingdom has long believed in the link between human rights and matters of peace and security, and we are glad that the Russian delegation now appears to share this view. We look forward to further discussions on human rights in the Council.


The UK is committed to defending freedom of religion or belief for all around the world. We condemn all persecution on the grounds of religion or belief. Ukraine shares these values. It is a pluralist and multi-faith society, with the right to freedom of religion or belief enshrined in its constitution. Its lawmakers have sought the advice of experts on freedom of religion and belief as they respond to threats to Ukraine’s national security.

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