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RUSSIA: Religious persecutions and issues – Bimonthly news digest (16-29.12.2022)

29.12.2022 – In Krasnoyarsk, a father of two young children was sentenced to 6 years in prison for believing in Jehovah God. 

Link to full text in Russian: https://www.jw-russia.org/news/2022/12/291532.html

On December 28, 2022, in Krasnoyarsk, Judge of the Oktyabrsky District Court Sergey Gruzdev convicted 38-year-old Jehovah’s Witness Alexander Filatov and sentenced him to 6 years in a penal colony. That is the term requested by the prosecutor for the defendant.

Alexander and his wife Elena have two children. Shortly before the start of the criminal prosecution, the family moved from Krasnoyarsk to Novorossiysk. In July 2021, Konstantin Zhuikov, an investigator with the Investigative Committee for the Oktyabrsky District of Krasnoyarsk, opened a criminal case against Filatov.

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26.12.2022 – Blogger from Armavir found guilty of insulting the religious feelings of Muslims

Sova Center – On December 19, 2022, the Armavir City Court sentenced local game blogger Sergey Orlov to a year in prison under Part 1 of Art. 148 (public actions expressing clear disrespect for society and committed in order to offend the religious feelings of believers) and Part 1 of Art. 228 of the Criminal Code (illegal acquisition and possession of drugs without the purpose of sale). Earlier, on June 16, 2021, Orlov was sentenced under Part 3 of Art. 158 of the Criminal Code for stealing money from a bank card found by him to one and a half years of imprisonment on probation.

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23.12.2022 – In Vyazemskiy, the Court gave Sergey Kuznetsov a 2 years and 5 months suspended sentence for his peaceful beliefs

Link to full text in Russian: https://www.jw-russia.org/news/2022/12/231146.html

On December 22, 2022, Ksenia Ostanina, a judge of the Vyazemskiy District Court of the Khabarovsk Territory, imposed a suspended prison senctence of 2 years and 5 months on 31-year-old Sergey Kuznetsov, with a probationary period of 2 years for participating in the activity of an extremist organization, basically, for his religion.

“I believe that calling me an extremist is a big mistake, as hatred towards people is something alien to Jehovah’s Witnesses because they follow the commandments of Jesus Christ to love people,” the believer stressed , addressing the court in his final statement.

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21.12.2022 – Azerbaijani citizen fined for “illegal” missionary work in Myski

Sova Center – On December 20, 2022, it became known that the Myskovsky City Court of the Kemerovo Region found the citizen of Azerbaijan guilty under Part 5 of Art. 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (carrying out missionary activity in violation of the requirements of legislation on freedom of conscience, committed by a foreign citizen or stateless person) and imposed a fine of 30 thousand rubles on him.

According to the police, he conducted missionary activities without documents confirming his right to conduct such activities on the territory of the Russian Federation.

 

20.12.2022 – Refusing to “carry out orders aimed at destruction and utter defeat of living people”

Forum 18 – A Leningrad Region court upheld Pavel Mushumansky’s request to have his mobilisation order cancelled. He had stated in his application for alternative service that based on his Christian beliefs he could not “carry out orders aimed at the destruction and utter defeat of living people”. Once the decision enters legal force, he should be able to return home from his military base. Dmitry Zlakazov, a Protestant whose application for alternative civilian service was rejected, lost his lawsuit against the military authorities. His whereabouts are unclear.

A Russian Protestant who sought to do alternative civilian service has succeeded in having his military mobilisation order declared illegal in court. While his lawyers have welcomed this decision as a “real act of justice”, the situation for conscientious objectors – religious and otherwise – remains murky during Russia’s “partial mobilisation”, which President Vladimir Putin has still not formally ended by decree.

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20.12.2022 – Russia’s spiritual security doctrine as a challenge to European comprehensive security approaches

The Review of faith & international affairs – In  the context of a special symposium in The Review of Faith & International Affairs dedicated to the OSCE Policy Guidance “Freedom of Religion or Belief and Security,” this article offers a comparison of the comprehensive security approach in that document and rival Russian understandings of national and human security. The article draws on Russian legal documents and the analysis of Russian public, church, and academic discourse from 2000 to the present.

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20.12.2022 – Cherkessk: fines for distributing religious literature

Sova center – In December 2022, we became aware of a number of rulings issued by the Circassian City Court of Karachay-Cherkessia under Art. 20.29 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (mass distribution of extremist materials) in connection with the distribution of prohibited religious literature.

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19.12.2022 – 4 Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced to prison in Russia

Associated press – Officials of the Jehovah’s Witnesses say four Russian members of the religious denomination have been sentenced to prison terms ranging up to seven years.

Russia banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2017 and designated the religion an extremist organization. More than 110 adherents are now in prison in Russia, Jehovah’s Witnesses spokesman Jarrod Lopes said in a statement.

He said the latest convictions were handed down in a court in the city of Birobidzhan in Russia’s far East, four years after they were arrested in home raids.

“It’s unthinkable that peaceful Christian men … would be accused of extremist activity and given harsh, lengthy prison sentences usually reserved for violent criminals,” Lopes said.

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19.12.2022 – Rosobrnadzor issued an educational license to the Buddhist Academy

Sova Center – On December 16, 2022, it became known that Rosobrnadzor issued a license to the Aginsky Buddhist Academy of the Trans-Baikal Territory of the Buddhist Traditional Sangha of Russia to conduct educational activities.

Graduates of the academy will be awarded a bachelor’s degree in Buddhist sciences and the qualification of a philosopher-theologian, an instructor-researcher of Tibetan medicine or a master of Buddhist tanka painting.

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19.12.2022 – Jehovah’s Witnesses were searched in Izhevsk. One of them was placed under house arrest

Link to full text in Russian: https://www.jw-russia.org/news/2022/12/191326.html

On December 14, 2022, investigations took place in Izhevsk at two addresses where Jehovah’s Witnesses live. A criminal case has been opened against two believers, Yevgeniy Stefanidin, 33 and Aleksander Votyakov, 49.

Representatives of the Investigative Committee invaded the homes of believers early in the morning. Electronic devices, hard drives, storage media, etc. were confiscated from them.

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15.12.2022 – The Russian Supreme Court did not take the opportunity to uphold justice for innocent believers from Kamchatka

Link to full text in Russian: https://www.jw-russia.org/news/2022/12/151646.html

On December 15, 2022, the Judicial Board for Criminal Cases of the Russian Supreme Court reversed the acquittal verdict against three of Jehovah’s Witnesses and sent their case for a new appeal hearing. The court contradicted the Supreme Court Plenum’s explanations, which stated that worship services do not constitute a crime under Article 282.2 of the Russian Criminal Code.

The case was considered by Supreme Court judges Aleksey Shamov, Vasiliy Zykin, and Sergey Zelenin. About 20 people attended, including media and representatives of diplomatic missions from at least six countries. “We regret that the judges departed from the fundamental position of the Supreme Court,” says Yaroslav Sivulskiy of the European Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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