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Left to right: Brothers Alam Aliyev, Valeriy Kriger, Sergey Shulyarenko, Dmitriy Zagulin

MARCH 18, 2021

Four Brothers From Birobidzhan Face Prison Sentences

Four Brothers From Birobidzhan Face Prison Sentences

Scheduled Verdict

The Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region will soon announce its verdict in the case involving Brothers Alam Aliyev, Valeriy Kriger, Sergey Shulyarenko, and Dmitriy Zagulin. *


Alam Aliyev

  • Born: 1963 (Lyaki Village, Azerbaijan)

  • Biography: Served in the Soviet Union military in Germany. Later worked on a fishing boat. Moved to Khabarovsk, Russia, in 1989. Currently works as a machinist

    Began studying the Bible shortly after moving to Russia. Baptized in 1991. Married his wife, Svetlana, in 2015. They enjoy spending time outdoors

Valeriy Kriger

  • Born: 1968 (Jewish Autonomous Region)

  • Biography: Raised in a nonreligious household. As a child, enjoyed acrobatics. Studied massage therapy and currently operates his own practice. Baptized in 1994. Married his wife, Natalya, in 2017. They enjoy playing volleyball and spending time together outdoors

Sergey Shulyarenko

  • Born: 1984 (Khabarovsk)

  • Biography: Lived in Turkmenistan as a child while his father served there in the military. Became a machinist’s assistant. Loves drawing portraits and learning foreign languages. Learned about Jehovah from his mother. Baptized in 1997 at the age of 13

Dmitriy Zagulin

  • Born: 1973 (Khabarovsk)

  • Biography: As a child, wanted to become a soldier. While serving in the military, learned martial arts and received parachute training. Currently works for a railroad company. Began studying the Bible in 1991. Baptized in 1992. Married his wife, Tatyana, in 2012

Case History

On May 17, 2018, an operation code-named “Judgment Day” was conducted by 150 security officials in Birobidzhan. Brother Alam Aliyev was charged and detained in a pretrial detention center for eight days for “organizing activities of an extremist organization.” Brothers Valeriy Kriger, Sergey Shulyarenko, and Dmitriy Zagulin were also charged. All four brothers are restricted from leaving the area. Adding to their stress, the wives of Alam, Valeriy, and Dmitriy are being prosecuted in separate cases.

Before being arrested, Alam researched the topic of persecution. He also shared what he learned with others in the congregation. He says: “I encouraged the brothers and sisters not to give in to fear in the face of persecution. This was very timely because exactly one week later, 21 families in our congregation endured searches of their homes.”

Valeriy and his wife, Natalya, could not attend a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Seoul, South Korea, due to the travel restrictions. They were also not permitted to visit his parents, who live in Israel. Unfortunately, his father died in February 2019. A few months earlier, his mother had spinal surgery and required full-time care. Valeriy is convinced that Jehovah provided support. Although his parents do not share his religious beliefs, it was his spiritual brothers and sisters in Israel who helped care for his mother. He explains: “We prayed to Jehovah about my mother’s situation, and Jehovah answered our prayers. Our fellow believers in Israel supported my mother emotionally. They visited her, talked with her, and invited her to the meetings. Although we could not be with my mother, we saw the hand of Jehovah; how he can act through the international brotherhood.”

For Dmitriy, the persecution reinforces something he already knew. He relates: “When everything is going well in life and there are no restrictions on our worship of God, it can be easy to start to take our spiritual treasures for granted and to neglect them. However, when the authorities deprive us of the opportunity to worship God freely, we understand how important it is to make use of what we do have right now and to prepare for possible persecution. It would be wise, then, to use the freedom that we have today to ‘store up . . . treasures in heaven.’ This will help us to endure to the end and to keep our faith strong.”—Matthew 6:20.

Without question, Jehovah is giving our dear brothers in Russia the “power beyond what is normal” to endure.—2 Corinthians 4:7.

^ par. 3 Advance notice of the verdict date is not always available.