The aggressive opposition of the Russian authorities to Jehovah’s Witnesses has now spilled over into Crimea. In Russia the government has not only banned the Witnesses’ legal entities but has clearly shown its intent to wipe out their peaceful worship. Since the April 2017 ban, Russian authorities have conducted numerous raids on Witness gatherings throughout Russia, resulting in the arrest and imprisonment of scores of Witnesses. The same heavy-handed tactics are now being used against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Crimea.
The first mass raid in Crimea took place on November 15, 2018, in Dzhankoy, when approximately 200 police and special forces officers raided eight private homes in which small groups of Witnesses were meeting together to read and discuss the Bible. At least 35 armed and masked officers forcibly entered the home of Sergey Filatov, where a group of six Witnesses were gathered. The Witnesses were terrorized by this aggressive action. The intruders pinned a 78-year-old man against the wall, forced him to the ground, handcuffed him, and beat him so badly that he was rushed to the hospital. Two other older men were so traumatized that they were rushed to the hospital with extremely high blood pressure. Tragically, a young woman whose house was also raided suffered a miscarriage.
Following the raid, Mr. Filatov was criminally charged under Article 282.2(1) of the Russian Criminal Code with organizing the activity of an “extremist organization.” On March 5, 2020, the district court in Crimea sentenced Mr. Filatov to six years in a general regime prison colony. After the sentencing he was immediately escorted to prison.
In the years following the 2018 raid in Dzhankoy, special forces officers continue to forcibly enter the homes of Witnesses who are suspected of extremist activity. The most recent raid occurred on May 22, 2023. At 6:30 in the morning, more than ten officers, five of whom were armed, entered a home in Feodosia. They ordered the Witnesses to lie on the floor while they searched the home for more than three hours. One of the male Witnesses was detained and taken to Sevastopol for questioning.
As a result of home raids and subsequent criminal trials and convictions, there are currently 12 Witness men in prison serving sentences up to six-and-a-half years. All have been charged with promoting the activities of an extremist organization.
November 17, 2023
Twelve of Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently imprisoned in Crimea.
May 22, 2023
Law-enforcement officers raid a Witness home in Feodosia. Electronic devices are confiscated and one Witness is detained.
August 5, 2021
Eight homes of Witnesses searched. Aleksandr Dubovenko and Aleksandr Litvinyuk arrested.
October 1, 2020
Nine homes are raided in Sevastopol. Igor Shmidt is arrested and placed in pretrial detention.
June 4, 2019
Special forces officers raid ten homes in Sevastopol. Mr. Stashevskiy is subsequently charged with organizing extremist activities.
March 20, 2019
Special forces officers raid eight homes in Alupka and Yalta. Mr. Gerasimov is interrogated and subsequently charged with organizing extremist activities.
November 15, 2018
Eight homes raided by over 200 police and special forces officers in Dzhankoy, including Mr. Filatov’s home.