The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion
The right to join together and express one’s belief
28 July 2021
DONBAS: Luhansk: More Christian texts "extremist", Catholic priests banned
After officials in the self-declared Luhansk People's Republic apparently seized Christian literature from local Baptists, Sverdlovsk court declared four Protestant books "extremist". Acting Deputy General Prosecutor Roman Gubaydulin put the phone down when asked why he lodged the suit. The books are among 18 Protestant and 6 Jehovah's Witness publications on the "State List of Extremist Materials". "Parishioners in Luhansk are very sad and pained that they have no priest," says Catholic priest Grzegorz Rapa, still unable to return. Officials at the Stanitsa Luhanska crossing point refused entry to the new bishop of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine’s local diocese.
3 June 2021
DONBAS: Luhansk: "The last Mass was in April 2020"
Catholics in the self-declared Luhansk People's Republic have been denied a priest and the possibility to receive communion since April 2020, officials giving contradictory reasons for banning the return of Fr Grzegorz Rapa. An Orthodox Church of Ukraine chapel has been ordered closed, and its bishop denied entry. Among religious texts banned as "extremist" are John's Gospel in the Synodal translation and the Jehovah's Witness New World Bible. Officials refuse to explain why. Despite a ban on Protestant meetings for worship, small meetings continue under threat of criminal prosecution.
30 March 2021
CRIMEA: Longest jail term so far
Of the four jail terms handed down in Crimea to punish the exercise of freedom of religion or belief, 54-year-old Jehovah's Witness Viktor Stashevsky received the longest so far. A Sevastopol court jailed him on 29 March for six and a half years, with a further seven years under restrictions, which are due to end in 2034. Seven more Crimean Jehovah's Witnesses are facing "extremism"-related prosecutions. Two were transferred in March from Investigation Prison to house arrest after nearly six months.
25 February 2021
CRIMEA: Muslim meetings for worship main target of "anti-missionary" prosecutions
Of the 13 individuals fined under Russia's "anti-missionary" laws in 2020 in Russian-occupied Crimea, 10 were imams leading meetings for worship in mosques outside the framework of the Russian-backed Crimean Muslim Board. "What will the state's next step be?" Seitosman Karaliyev asked in November 2020, after another imam was fined for not having documents approving his role leading the community. "Without an original certificate, will we no longer be allowed to conduct dua (prayer service) or jenazah (burial service)?"
20 November 2020
CRIMEA: Fined after prosecutor "told us we'd get a warning"
Of 20 known cases in 2020 to punish Crimean religious communities which fail to use their full legal name on websites or on meeting places, 13 related to websites (mostly the VKontakte site). Ten of these were fined one month's average wages. "We were saddened and in shock," said a member of one fined community. "The prosecutor told us we'd get a warning."
13 November 2020
CRIMEA: "My husband does not admit any guilt"
"My husband does not admit any guilt," says Svetlana Sakada, wife of one of four Jehovah's Witnesses in pre-trial detention after 1 October raids in Sevastopol. She insists that Vladimir Sakada "has conducted no crimes against the foundations of the state". The four face up to ten years' imprisonment if convicted on "extremism"-related charges. Already on trial in Sevastopol facing the same charges is fellow Jehovah's Witness Viktor Stashevsky.
12 November 2020
CRIMEA: Ten months in Russian "prison within a prison"
Prisoners of conscience Jehovah's Witnesses Sergei Filatov and Artyom Gerasimov are being denied letters sent to them. Muslim prisoner of conscience Renat Suleimanov is being denied letters sent in his own language of Crimean Tatar. He has been held for ten months in Kamenka Labour Camp's closed zone, in a cell holding 10 prisoners, but may be released in December. All were transferred illegally to jails in Russia.
18 August 2020
CRIMEA: Mosque closed as "There is no community there"?
Officials have closed the mosque in Zavetnoye in Sovetsky District of eastern Crimea, which was handed to the community in 2004. Police and plain clothes officers raided it in March. In April, a court fined Imam Dilyaver Khalilov for leading Friday prayers. Asked how the Muslim community should worship now the authorities are seizing their place of worship, Emil Velilyayev, deputy head of Sovetsky District, responded: "There is no community there."
10 June 2020
CRIMEA: Third jailing as second Jehovah's Witness jailed
In the third jailing in Russian-occupied Crimea on "extremism" charges to punish the exercise of freedom of religion and belief, Jehovah's Witness Artyom Gerasimov was jailed for six years after a prosecutor appealed against an earlier fine. Jailed earlier were Muslim Renat Suleimanov for four years and Jehovah's Witness Sergei Filatov for six years. Like Suleimanov and Filatov, Gerasimov expects to be sent to a prison in Russia.
7 April 2020
CRIMEA: Prosecuting worship as "illegal missionary activity"
Prosecutors in Alushta brought a case against Imam Yusuf Ashirov on 1 April of conducting "illegal missionary activity" by leading Friday prayers. Imam Dilyaver Khalilov faces a similar case after police and plain clothes officials raided the mosque just after Friday prayers. A Simferopol court similarly fined Imam Rasim Dervishev. "It is absurd to require anyone to ask permission to conduct religious rituals," his lawyer Ayder Azamatov insists.
5 March 2020
CRIMEA: "Unjustifiable to jail someone for reading the Bible"
Jehovah's Witness Sergei Filatov was today sentenced to six years' jail with an additional five years' additional restrictions, and his co-believer Artyom Gerasimov was in a separate trial fined about two years' average salary. "I'm outraged, because it is unjustifiable to jail someone for reading the Bible," Filatov told Forum 18 before the sentence.
2 March 2020
CRIMEA: Six months in Russian prison punishment cell
In January, Crimean Muslim prisoner of conscience Renat Suleimanov completed six months in Russian labour camp punishment cell for an alleged conflict with another prisoner. He was then transferred to the camp's strict section. Suleimanov's lawyer insists the accusation was fabricated to punish his client. On 3 and 5 March, verdicts are expected in criminal cases against Jehovah's Witnesses Artyom Gerasimov and Sergei Filatov.