MARCH 24, 2021
The Industrial District Court of Smolensk will soon announce its verdict in the case involving Brothers Yevgeniy Deshko, Ruslan Korolyov, and Valeriy Shalev. * The prosecutor has asked for Yevgeniy and Ruslan to be sentenced to prison for nine years and Valeriy for eight. Brother Viktor Malkov, who was also part of this case, passed away before the conclusion of the trial.
Born: 1989 (Sochi)
Biography: Has worked as a massage therapist, a driver, and an electrician. Raised by Witness parents. After developing deep respect for the Bible’s standards, refused compulsory military service. Baptized in 2012. From 2012 to 2014, performed alternative civilian service as an orderly in a geriatric hospital
Born: 1982 (Smolensk)
Biography: At a young age, enjoyed learning how to repair electronic devices. Later, became a mechanic. Served in the Russian army. Began studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses and found comfort in Bible truth. Baptized in 2004
Born: 1959 (Smolensk)
Biography: Worked as a mechanic, carpenter, and roofer. Married his wife, Vera, in 1992. Enjoyed playing soccer as a youth. Helped to care for his visually impaired brother
Had a reputation for being violent, which resulted in a seven-year incarceration. His marriage was on the verge of ending in divorce. After studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, he became a peaceful, law-abiding citizen and an exemplary husband. Baptized in 2008. Passed away in death on April 25, 2020
Born: 1977 (Yartsevo)
Biography: Studied English as a young man. Graduated from a military institute. Moved to the Far East of Russia to work as an accountant for the military. After leaving the army, worked as a financial consultant. In 1999, he married Svetlana, whom he met in college, and adopted her four-year-old son. He stays active playing soccer and running
His mother began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and shared what she was learning with him. He tried to discredit her newfound faith but eventually realized that it was the truth. Baptized in 2002
The persecution in Smolensk predates the 2017 Supreme Court ruling that criminalized our brothers’ activity in Russia. On December 18, 2016, 15 armed police officers interrupted a congregation meeting at a Kingdom Hall in Smolensk. Some 60 brothers and sisters were in attendance. During the raid, officers planted and then “found” literature the Russian government has classified as “extremist material.”
A series of searches, arrests, and detentions followed in 2018 and 2019. On April 25, 2019, officers raided several homes and took into custody Brothers Ruslan Korolyov, Valeriy Shalev, and Viktor Malkov. Viktor asked the officers: “I was imprisoned for seven years for fighting, then became a believer. Now you want to imprison me for . . . preaching the good news?”
Brother Yevgeniy Deshko was arrested and detained several days after the other brothers. Yevgeniy recalls: “Because I had anticipated that this might happen to me, I was ready to accept it.” He continues to be encouraged by Jehovah’s words to Joshua: “Be courageous and strong. Do not be struck with terror or fear, for Jehovah your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) Yevgeniy explains: “It contains both a call to be courageous as well as an assurance of support.”
While in detention, Ruslan says he meditated on Jesus’ words at Matthew 6:34. Instead of worrying about what might happen, Ruslan recalls: “I occupied myself with letter writing, Bible reading, and speaking with my fellow cell mates about the truth. I didn’t particularly have time to be overwhelmed with anxiety.”
In March 2020, Federal Security Service (FSB) investigator, G. P. Bezrukov, reduced the four brothers’ restrictions, ending their house arrest. They had spent almost one year behind bars and confined to their homes. The change was a direct result of our faithful brothers’ positive, cooperative attitudes while detained. The investigator was confident that if he granted them more freedom they would not interfere with the investigation or pose a threat during any additional interrogation.
Sadly, shortly after this, Viktor passed away. Reportedly, the poor conditions in pretrial detention and the stress associated with his criminal prosecution irreparably damaged his health.
Ruslan, Valeriy, and Yevgeniy are determined to follow the example of Viktor and many others who have proved faithful to the end. By maintaining their spiritual focus, they are not just coping with persecution—they are thriving despite it.
Valeriy says: “Because of my imprisonment, Jehovah became even closer to me. I was never so close to him. I read the Bible constantly. Prison is not a great place to be, but people survive even without Jehovah’s support. So all the more, with Jehovah’s support we can endure.”
Yevgeniy comments that he is now even more convinced of Jehovah’s help. Yevgeniy says: “I am convinced that our Father helps us, especially in those instances when we have really serious tests. So now I rarely worry about what tests might still be ahead.”
Whatever the outcome of his court case, Yevgeniy says: “I am determined to keep doing everything in order to endure all these difficulties and remain faithful.”
With Jehovah’s help, we know that these brothers and their families will continue to endure with joy during this time of hardship.—2 Thessalonians 3:5.
^ par. 3 Advance notice of the verdict date is not always available.