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


15.10.2023 – Anti-war Russian clergy face punishment

Deutsche Welle – Clergy have been defrocked and fined in court for speaking out against the war in Ukraine as the Russian Orthodox Church brings members into line ideologically.

DW spoke with clergy who left Russia and others who remained — all of them trying to navigate an increasingly repressive environment inside the Orthodox Church.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Andrey, a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), faced a dilemma: Save the community he had been building in the church, or risk it all by speaking up? Stay, or leave?

Pastor Andrey was one of those who publicly condemned the war and decided to flee. He relocated his entire family to neighboring Georgia, where he cannot fulfill his pastoral mission without the ROC’s approval. He chose to speak to DW from there on condition of anonymity in order to preserve his final “glimpse of hope” of again performing his priestly services in Russia someday.

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13.10.2023 – Three Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced in Oryol

Sova Center – On October 13, 2023, the Sovetsky District Court of Orel sentenced Jehovah’s Witnesses Vladimir Piskarev, Vladimir Melnik and Artur Putintsev to six years in a general regime colony with one and a half years of restriction of freedom under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code on organizing the activities of an extremist organization.

A criminal case against Piskarev, Melnik and Putintsev was initiated on December 8, 2020. Since December 11 of the same year, they were all under arrest. 67-year-old Piskarev suffered two hypertensive crises and a stroke in a pre-trial detention center; he was diagnosed with coronary vascular disease of the brain.

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12.10.2023 – An Appeal in Sevastopol upheld the verdict against three Local Jehovah’s Witnesses.

JW- On October 11, 2023, the judicial board of the Sevastopol City Court upheld the sentence of Vladimir Maladyka, 60, Yevgeniy Zhukov, 53, and Vladimir Sakada, 52, – six years each in a general regime colony. The verdict entered into force, but can be appealed in the court of cassation.

In his appeal, the lawyer pointed out that Maladyka, Sakada and Zhukov “were convicted only because they professed beliefs based on the Bible and peacefully practiced their Christian faith.” At court hearings, they did not deny that they were Jehovah’s Witnesses and together with family and friends, they sang songs praising God, addressed him in prayer and discussed the Bible. At the same time, the believers explained that their goal was to profess their religion, help people, show kindness and love for others.

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12.10.2023 – A criminal case has been initiated against a Jehovah’s Witness from Cherkessk

Sova – On October 12, 2023, the department of the Russian Investigative Committee for the Karachay-Cherkess Republic reported on a criminal case against a 55-year-old Jehovah’s Witness from Cherkessk. The believer is accused according to CC. 1.1 and 2 art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code (recruitment into the activities of an extremist organization and participation in it).

A resident of Cherkessk was sent under house arrest. According to investigators, from 2018 to April 2023, the accused took part in the activities of the local community of Jehovah’s Witnesses: “Carrying out recruitment conversations, convincing citizens of the need to accept the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses, promoting its superiority over others, organizing meetings and worship services, at which she conducted sermons and classes on studying the basics of illegal religious activities and literature.”

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09.10.2023 – Four now jailed for refusing to fight in Ukraine on religious grounds

Forum 18 – Military courts have now jailed four men for refusing on religious grounds to go to fight in Ukraine. In Vladivostok, Baptist Vyacheslav Reznichenko entered the prison colony-settlement on 18 September to start his 2 year, 6 month term. In Murmansk, a court handed long-serving contract soldier Maksim Makushin, a Pentecostal Christian, a term of 2 years and 8 months “for refusing to kill Ukrainians”. He is awaiting his appeal. Neither courts nor prosecutors answered Forum 18’s questions why they were not allowed to do alternative civilian service.

Courts have sentenced two more Russian Protestants to terms of imprisonment because they refused on religious grounds to go to fight in Ukraine. Soldiers – whether regular or mobilised – have virtually no legal means to avoid deployment to Ukraine on grounds of conscience, leaving them facing criminal charges for refusing to obey orders.

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06.10.2023 – A new case has been opened against a Jehovah’s Witness from Voronezh in the Amur region

Sova – Evgeny Sokolov, who is being tried under Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code in Voronezh, sent for a psychiatric examination as part of a new case initiated in Zeya, Amur Region.

On October 5, 2023, it became known that a new criminal case under Part 1 of Art . 282.2 of the Criminal Code (organizing the activities of an extremist organization).

The case was opened on December 15, 2022 by an investigator from the Russian FSB Directorate for the Amur Region in connection with the activities that Sokolov conducted in the city of Zeya.

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03.10.2023 – Three years of forced labor for reading the Bible. Yuriy Chernykh, father of a minor child, was found guilty of extremism

JW – On September 28, 2023, the Central District Court of Prokopyevsk found Yuriy Chernykh guilty of participating in the activities of an extremist organization. Judge, Alyona Novosyolova, sentenced him to three years of forced labor, along with15% of his salary going to the State.

The case was initiated on November 5, 2021. Previously, Yuriy was a witness in the case of Andrey Vlasov. In July 2020, the Chernykhs’ house was searched, after which he and his wife were interrogated by the FSB. When the Chernykhs were searched again in November 2021,their electronic media and a television, as well as postcards and personal records, were seized.

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04.10.2023 – Searches were carried out in Moscow and Kirov in connection with the activities of the recognized undesirable Revival Church.

Sova – On October 4, 2023, the departments of the Investigative Committee for the Kirov region and Moscow reported the initiation of a criminal case under Art. 284.1 of the Criminal Code regarding the continuation of the activities of Vladimir Muntyan’s Revival Charitable Foundation based in Ukraine and the religious organization All-Ukrainian Spiritual Center Revival.

The case was initiated regarding the continuation of the activities of Vladimir Muntyan’s Revival Charitable Foundation and the religious organization All-Ukrainian Spiritual Center Revival, based in Ukraine.

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02.10.2023 – The Kryashen organization saw an insult to the feelings of believers in the film “Mikulay”

Sova – On October 2, 2023, it became known that activists of the Kryashen public organization from Yelabuga demand that the film “Mikulay” starring Viktor Sukhorukov be withdrawn from distribution. In their opinion, director Ilshat Rakhimbai made an anti-Kryashen and slanderous film that offends the feelings of believers.

The film was released in June 2023. Representatives of the Kryashen organization believe that it “is provocative in nature, imbued with disrespect . ”

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