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UKRAINE-RUSSIA: Foes and friends of Ukraine among religious leaders in Russia

Friends and foes of Ukraine among religious leaders in Russia

Russian scholar Roman Lunkin analyzes the attitude of religious leaders about the war in Ukraine: Brief ‘rating’ of religious leaders in Russia by degree of loyalty to the Special operation in Ukraine. Human Rights Without Frontiers calls upon the EU, the US and the UK to extend their sanctions to the Russian religious leaders who support the war in Ukraine.

See Black List 2 below.

See HRWF Black List 1 here

Russia Religion News (14.03.2022) – The Russian religious studies scholar, sociologist, and political scientist Roman Lunkin composed a “brief rating of religious leaders of Russia by degree of their loyalty to the special operation in Ukraine,” the Christian megaportal inVictory reports, citing the Facebook account of the author.

 

As Lunkin observed, the list includes those whom he noticed and recalled.

 

Direct support

 

Director of Ecclesiastical Assembly of Muslims of Russia, Albir Krganov;

Supreme mufti of the Central Ecclesiastical Board of Muslims of Russia, Talgat Tadzhuddin;

Chairman of the Ecclesiastical Board of Muslims of the republic of Tatarstam, Kamil Samigullin;

Mufti of Bashkiria, Ainur Birgalin;

Patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus Kirill (from 11 March, when explanations of the conflict were stated in a letter to the World Council of Churches);

Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Old-ritualist Church Kornily;

Protestant bishop of the Russian Churches of Christians of Evangelical Faith, Pavel Zhelnovakov (Izhevsk);

Pastor of a protestant church in Kostroma, Andrei Gusev;

Orthodox historian and publicist Feliks Razumovsky;

Orthodox historian and publicist, priest Ilia Soloviev;

 

Between a call for peace and direct support

 

Bishop Sergei Riakhovsky, head of Pentecostal union of the Russian Affiliated Council of Christian of Evangelical Faith, member of the Public Chamber of the R.F.

 

Calls for peace only

 

Head of the Ecclesiastical Board of Muslims of the R.F., Ravil Gainutdin;

Chairman of the Ecclesiastical Board of Muslims of Crimea and Sevastopol, Emirali Ablaev;

Archbishop of Evangelical Lutheran Church of Russia, Ditrikh Brauer;

Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria, Ivan Laptev;

Rector of the Moscow Theological Institute, Sergei Yastrzhemsky;

Pastor of Church of Embassy of Jesus in Nizhny Novgorod;

Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia and Archbishop Pavel Petstsi ;

Prayer for peace by Bishop Nikolai Dubinin;

Baptist pastor Evgeny Bakhmutsky (Moscow);

Head of Buddhist Traditional Sangkha of Russia, Pandito Khambo Lama Damba Aiusheev;

 

Detailed active position for cessation of the conflict

 

Chief rabbi of Russia, Berl Lazar;

Head of the Union of Baptists of Russia, Petr Mitskevich (he is also head of the Union of Baptists of the whole Eurasian space, Transcauasus, and Central Asia);

Bishop of Pentecostal Union of the Russian Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith, Eduard Grabovenko;

286 priests of the Russian Orthodox Church (appeal on 1 March 2022);

 

Against the military operation and condemnation of Russia and Russian Orthodox Church

 

Protestant opposition figures, Baptists Yury Sipko and Aleksei Markevich;

Orthodox activists and opposition figures Sergei Chapnin and Konstantin Eggert;

Pastor Albert Ratkin of the video channel Vsgliad s Nebesnoi;

Pastor of the “New Life” church in Ekaterinburg, Viktor Sudakov;

Archdeacon Andrei Kuraev.

 

Appeal to fellow countrymen by evangelical ministers of 3 March 2022

(as Aleksei Markevich notes, it was signed by about 500 persons, but it is impossible to confirm this now, since all signatures were secret inasmuch as, unlike the Orthodox appeal, the protestants essentially accused the Russian Federation of aggression). Apparently only the signatures of the principal signatories are public:

 

Yuri Ilchenko, Khabarovsk;

Evgeny Kokora, Novorossiisk;

Andrei Kravtsev, Nalchik;

Roman Nosach, St. Petersburg;

Aleksei Markevich, Moscow;

Pavel Togobitsky, Berdsk;

Viktor Fast, Solnechnyi;

Igor Shaifulin, Novosibirsk;

Mikhail Cherniavsky, Khabarovsk.

(tr. by PDS, posted 20 March 2022)

Photo: War ruins in Ukraine / Getty Images

Further reading about FORB in Russia on HRWF website

Further reading about FORB in Ukraine on HRWF website





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RUSSIA: Experts disagree on expectations from Supreme Court directive

Experts disagree on expectations from Supreme Court directive

Jehovah’s Witness justified by faith – Court distinguished religious confession from extremism (Kommersant)

by Aleksei Chernyshev, Anastasia Kurilova

 

Russia Religion News (23.11.2021) – https://bit.ly/3dGb1mt – A court in Vladivostok for the first time issued a verdict of acquittal in a case of a Jehovah’s Witness who had been accused of extremism. The decision was based on a recent clarification by the Russian Supreme Court to the effect that courts should not interpret religious practices as participation in extremist activity. Some experts are counting on verdicts of acquittal also in other, similar cases of Jehovah’s Witnesses, while others are not so optimistic.

 

Early in the week, the Pervorechka district court of Vladivostok issued an unexpected verdict in the criminal case of Dmitry Barmakin. The man was charged with creating an extremist community (part 1 of article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of R.F.). According to the account of the investigation, he supported the activity of the organization “Jehovah’s Witnesses in Vladivostok.” We recall that the Russian Supreme Court in 2017 ruled the legal entity “Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses” to be an extremist organization, along with all of its 395 regional affiliates. “The defendant, knowing this for a certainty, regularly conducted meetings where he spread the ideology of the forbidden association, and he also ensured the organizational base for its successful existence,” the investigation department of the S.K.R. [Investigative Committee of Russia] for the Primorie territory asserted.

 

A criminal case against Mr. Barmakin had been opened in July 2018, and he was subsequently arrested. The believer spent a year and a half in a SIZO [pretrial investigation cell] and then his measure of restriction was mitigated to a ban on certain activities. In late 2020, the Pervorechka district court returned the case to the prosecutor’s office with the indication that from the text of the indictment it was impossible to establish the extremist nature of the defendant’s actions. However the prosecutor’s office managed to return the case to court. In the course of the debates of the parties, the state prosecutor requested for Dmitry Barmakin nine years in a penal colony. The believer himself insisted upon his innocence, maintaining that there was no extremism in his actions. Mr. Barmakin said that he merely professed the religion of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, sang songs with other believers, discussed the Bible with them, and prayed.

 

The trial was nearing its conclusion, but on 28 October a plenum of the Russian Supreme Court issued a “substantive” directive. It clarified that in the event of a prohibition of an organization, its former members may continue individual or group conduct of religious rituals “exclusively in exercising their right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religious confession.” In and of themselves, religious practices ought not to be interpreted as participation in an extremist organization.

 

According to the Supreme Court’s explanation, courts should first establish just which specific socially harmful actions have been committed by believers and in what ways they are significant for the continuation or revival of the activity of the extremist organization.

 

Also, it is necessary to ascertain the motives for the conduct of these actions.

 

As a result, Judge Stanislav Salnikov acquitted Dmitry Barmakin because of the absence of elements of a crime. The “OVD-Info” project (listed in the register of foreign agents) quotes the verdict: “. . . conducting the religious rituals of the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses in residences or commercial premises . . . does not violate the law but is an exercise of the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and religion.” An assistant to the chairman of the district court, Alexander Chukhil, told Kommersant that the acquitted man “has the right to rehabilitation.” It still has been impossible to get a comment from Dmitry Barmakin and his attorneys. Kommersant’s question whether the verdict of acquittal will be appealed was not answered in the territorial prosecutor’s office.

 

The SOVA Center for News and Analysis (included in the list of foreign agents) emphasizes that the decision of the Pervorechka district court is the first one based on the directive of the plenum of the Supreme Court. A representative of the European Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Yaroslav Sivulsky, declared to Kommersant that the decision of the judge from Vladivostok interrupted “a continuous string of guilty verdicts,” and also linked the judge’s decision with the directive of the plenum of the Russian Supreme Court. “In its verdict the court emphasized the very same thing that Jehovah’s Witnesses have been trying to convey to the public in the course of all these years. The peaceful religious activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses, in essence, cannot pose any kind of threat to society and the state. One would like to believe that this verdict is just the first of many similar decisions,” Mr. Sivulsky noted.

 

We recall that the Memorial Rights Center (included in the register of foreign agents) has calculated that at least 576 Jehovah’s Witnesses have come under criminal prosecution in Russia. Of these, 545 persons have been charged on the basis of the same article 282.2 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code as Mr. Barmakin. Thirty-five believers have already been sentenced to real prison time and 87 to suspended sentences. At least 76 persons are being held in custody in a SIZO and 31 are under house arrest. Two believers have been stripped of their citizenship in the R.F. and deported from the country.

 

Attorney Viktor Zhenkov, who has defended Jehovah’s Witnesses in courts, told Kommersant that he and his colleagues will now be trying to use the clarification of the Supreme Court’s plenum as an argument in ongoing cases.

 

However, the attorney doubts that it will be possible, on the basis of this document, to get a review of cases in which a decision has already been rendered.

 

The director of the Center for the Study of Problems of Religion and Society of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Roman Lunkin, is confident that one should not expect widespread acquittals in the future. After all, each court will decide for itself whether to use the Supreme Court’s recommendation or not. “The problem is that we still have a contradiction. The position of the authorities is as follows: we have banned only the administrative form and believers themselves may profess their religion. But for the police, any meeting of believers in an apartment is a continuation of the activity of the forbidden organization,” Mr. Lunkin stressed. “And so here each policeman, prosecutor, and judge will decide for himself whether to consider that prayer meetings in apartments are individual conduct of religious rituals or a continuation of the activity of the forbidden organization.” (tr. by PDS, posted 26 November 2021)

Related article:
Trial court applies recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of Jehovah’s Witness

 

Photo: Alexander Koryakov, Kommersant

Further reading about FORB in Russia on HRWF website





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RUSSIA: 28 JWs sentenced to prison in 2021

28 Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced to prison in 2021: 

Valery Rogozin, Sergei Melnik, Igor Egozarian, Viacheslav Osipov, and Denis Peresunko are Nr 24, 25, 26, 27, 28

HRWF (27.09.2021) –

10.02.2021: Aleksandr Ivshin, 7.5 years

24.02.2021: Roman Baranovskiy, 6 years

24.02.2021: Valentina Baranovskaya, 2 years

29.03.2021: Viktor Stashevskiy, 6.5 years

30.03.2021: Oleg Danilov, 3 years

06.04.2021: Aleksandr Shcherbina, 3 years

20.05.2021: Rustam Seidkuliev, 2.5 years

28.05.2021: Anastasiya Polyakova 2.5 years – Gaukhar Bektemirova, 2.3 years – Dinara Dyusekeyeva, 2 years.

01.06.2021: Ekaterina Pegasheva, 6.5 years

03.06.2021: Andrei Stupnikov, 6 years

03.06.2021: Andrei Andreyev, Andrei Ryshkov, Armen Bagratyan, and Alevtina Bagratyan (from 2 to 4.5 years in prison)

30.06.2021: Dmitri Golik (7 years) and Aleksei Berchuk (8 years)

29.07.2021: Alexander Parkov and Arsen Avanesov (6.5 years) and Vilen Avanesov (6 years)

13.08.2021: Vasiliy Meleshko, 3 years

06.09.2021: Dmitry Sergeyevich Terebilov, 3 years

23.09.2021: Valery Rogozin (6.5 years), Viacheslav Osipov and Denis Peresunko (6.3 years), Igor Egozarian and Sergei Melnik (6 years)

 

Russia Religion News (23.09.2021) – https://bit.ly/3zMcLTz – A court in Volgograd issued real prison terms to five Jehovah’s Witnesses, finding them guilty in a case regarding extremism. The defendants did not acknowledge guilt and they intend to appeal the verdict. Relatives of the convicts called the verdict expected.

 

As Kavkazskii Uzel has written, the five Jehovah’s Witnesses defendants from Volgograd accused of extremism declared in court that they did not participate in the activity of an organization that has been banned by a court. The prosecution asked for them to be sentenced to incarceration for from seven to nine years. Relatives of the defendants pointed out that in the event of real prison terms, the families of the Volgograd Jehovah’s Witnesses will be left without breadwinners. In their final statements the defendants declared their innocence and asked the court to acquit them.

 

The Jehovah’s Witnesses Valery Rogozin, Sergei Melnik, Igor Egozarian, Viacheslav Osipov, and Denis Peresunko were charged with membership in an organization that a court has ruled to be extremist. But they themselves insist that they are not members of a legal entity that has been forbidden by a court but they simply profess their own religion. According to the believers’ defense attorneys, evidence was presented in court that had nothing to do either with the essence of the charges or with the religious views of the defendants, and the religious studies expert analysis did not explain what the extremism with which the believers were charged consisted of.

 

Igor Egozarian and Sergei Melnik each received six years in a medium security prison colony; Viacheslav Osipov and Denis Peresunko each received six years and three months, and Valery Rogozin received six years and five months, the attorney Roman Levin told a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent.

 

“The verdict has still not been delivered, but it was announced. I think that the court drew conclusions about the leadership role of Rogozin, and therefore he got more. Osipov, Peresunko, and Rogozin were charged with two crimes, and Egozarian and Melnik were charged with one crime,” the lawyer noted. He said the defense will appeal the verdict.

 

The verdict was read out for five and a half hours; the reading was attended also by relatives of the accused, Levin explained. He said that the convicts were taken into custody in the courtroom.

 

The evidence assembled by the investigation was found by the court to be sufficient to support the sentence of the five members of the religious organization professing and propagating the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. All of the defendants were found to be guilty of arranging the activity of an extremist organization (part 2 of article 282.2 of the Russian Criminal Code), and three of them also were found guilty of financing extremist activity (part 1 of article 282.3 of the Russian Criminal Code), a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent was told by the senior assistant director of the department for relations with news media of the investigation department of the S.K.R. for Volgograd oblast, Natalia Rudnik.

 

“The investigation and court established that the convicts, who knew for certain that back in the spring of 2017 the activity of the religious organization ‘Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia’ had been ruled to be extremist by a decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, from March of 2018, by means of conspiracy, arranged in the region mass events at which they not only actively promoted the exclusivity and superiority of a forbidden ideology, but also in the guise of voluntary contributions collected money from participants in the meetings, which, as investigators allege, was disbursed for the needs of an extremist organization, enabling its activity,” Rudnik declared.

 

Besides imprisonment, the convicts are deprived of the right to hold leadership positions in public and religious organizations over the course of four years, Pudnik noted.

 

The convicts had the possibility of terminating the activity of the organization, but “knowing for certain about the ban on its activity on Russian territory” and “realizing the public danger and illegality of their actions, in the form of undermining the foundations of the constitutional order and security of the state,” “acting as a group of persons, they continued to arrange the activity of an extremist organization,” the press service of the Traktorzavod court of Volgograd reported today.

 

Three of the convicts, “acting intentionally from extremist motives, as a joint criminal conspiracy, undertook actions for collection of money deliberately intended for enabling the activity of extremist organizations,” the report of the court’s website states. “In all, in the period from 17 July 2017 to 16 May 2019 (they) collected for enabling the activity of the religious organization ‘Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia’ and the local religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses of the Traktorzavod district of Volgograd, that had been ruled to be extremist, at least 140,670 rubles. The defendants did not acknowledge they were guilty of the charge presented, pointing out that faith cannot be forbidden,” the report says.

 

For the reading of the verdict, one relative for each was admitted into the courtroom, Sergei Melnik’s wife, Anna, explained. “They were taken into custody in the courtroom. Today they will be put into a temporary holding cell and tomorrow into a SIZO; then they will be transported to SIZO-3 in Frolovo, and there they will await the appellate hearing. We had hoped that maybe there would be a suspended sentence, because they had not been previously convicted of criminal responsibility and they had totally positive character references. When the judge read the verdict she said that all the arguments of the defense were unreasonable. . . . We had hoped to the last for a lighter sentence. On the other hand, such a verdict was expected,” she told a Kavkazskii Uzel correspondent.

 

Anna Melnik said that the defendants reacted to the sentence calmly. “Because they understood that this is, one may say, a political order,” she noted.

 

Anna Melnik noted that other relatives present in the court “do not have the strength” to make comments. She reported that Igor Egozarian’s mama, who is already over 80 years old, was in court.

 

Valery Rogozin’s son Vadim considered the verdict expected, although he called the case “picked out of thin air.” “It was clear that in any case there would be a guilty verdict; we did not expect acquittal. We had hoped that if they wanted to imprison them they would not be taken from the SIZO originally. We thought maybe they would give them a suspended sentence or a fine. But to imprison them for six years. I consider that that is nonsense in the context of Russia as a whole. There was no victim. Why such prison terms?” the son of the convicted Jehovah’s Witness commented on the verdict. (tr. by PDS, posted 23 September 2021)

 

Russian version: Kavkazskii Uzel, 23 September 2021

 

Photo: Valery Rogozin, one of the five JW sentenced to prison on 23 September Courtesy: JW.ORG

Further reading about FORB in Russia on HRWF website

 


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