Case of Levchuk and Britvin in Beryozovsky

Case history

In January 2021, the sentence came into force for two miners from the city of Berezovsky - 4 years each in a general regime colony due to the fact that they profess the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Both have families. At the time of Vadim Levchuk’s arrest, his son was a minor. Sergey Britvin has a disability group II. The persecution began in July 2018, when a wave of searches took place in the city, after which the Central District Court of Kemerovo placed both in a pre-trial detention center. While the investigation and trial were going on, the believers spent almost 2 years in prison. The case of Britvin and Levchuk was investigated by the FSB. No casualties or damage were identified. The believers were found guilty of organizing the activities of an extremist organization only because they communicated with friends on spiritual topics. The state prosecutor recommended that the court appoint 6.5 years in prison for each. The believers pleaded not guilty, insisting that practicing their religion is not prohibited by law. On December 30, 2021, they were released from the colony, having served their sentence in full.

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    July 19, 2018

    Investigator of the Investigation Department of the FSB of Russia in the Kemerovo Region, Senior Lieutenant of Justice E. Suspitsyn, having considered the report of the crime, decides to initiate a criminal case under Part 2. Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

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    July 20, 2018

    The judge of the Central District Court of Kemerovo, Irina Ivanova, makes a decision to allow a search of Levchuk.

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    July 22, 2018

    Sergey Britvin was searched and taken to a pre-trial detention center.

    Vadim Levchuk was detained and taken to his home. He was searched. A search report has been drawn up.

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    July 23, 2018

    Sergey Britvin and Vadim Levchuk were detained. Detention protocols have been drawn up. Both were questioned as suspects. Interrogation protocols have been drawn up.

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    July 24, 2018

    Judge Natalia Naumova from the Central District Court of Kemerovo makes a decision on the election of a measure of restraint in the form of detention in relation to Britvin and Levchuk for 1 month and 28 days, i.e. until 19.09.2018.

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    July 27, 2018
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    August 10, 2018

    Appeal hearing. Judge of the Kemerovo Regional Court Irina Karimova decides to leave the measure of restraint for Britvin unchanged. Judge of the Kemerovo Regional Court Elena Tiunova decides to leave unchanged the measure of restraint for Levchuk.

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    September 17, 2018

    The judge of the Central District Court of Kemerovo, Irina Ivanova, makes a decision to extend the period of detention of Britvin and Levchuk in custody for another 2 months, i.e. until 19.11.2018.

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    October 10, 2018

    Judge S. Zarina of the Kemerovo Regional Court makes a decision to leave unchanged the decision to extend the first period of detention of Levchuk.

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    October 18, 2018

    Judge of the Kemerovo Regional Court Olga Plastinina upholds the decision to extend the first term of Britvin's detention.

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    November 14, 2018

    The Chairman of the Central District Court of Kemerovo, Inna Mikhailenko, makes a decision to extend the second period of detention of Britvin and Levchuk in custody for 2 months, i.e. until 19.01.2019.

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    November 30, 2018

    The judge of the Kemerovo Regional Court, Alina Lazareva, makes a decision to leave unchanged the decision to extend Britvin's second custody.

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    December 5, 2018

    Judge of the Kemerovo Regional Court Vera Slesareva makes a decision to leave unchanged the second decision on the extension of Levchuk's detention.

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    January 9, 2019

    Senior investigator of the Investigative Department of the FSB Directorate for the Kemerovo Region E. Efimov decides to re-charge Levchuk and Britvin with committing a crime, reclassifying it from part 2 to part 1 of article 282.2.

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    January 16, 2019

    The judge of the Central District Court of Kemerovo, Alexander Vyalov, makes a decision to extend the third term of detention of Britvin and Levchuk for 2 months, i.e. until 19.03.2019.

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    January 28, 2019

    Senior investigator of the Investigative Department of the FSB Directorate for the Kemerovo Region E. Efimov decides to re-charge Levchuk with committing a crime under Part 1 of Article 282.2

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    January 29, 2019

    E. Efimov, senior investigator of the Kemerovo Region Directorate of the FSB, decides to re-charge Britvin with committing a crime under Part 2 of Article 282.2.

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    February 5, 2019

    Familiarization of the accused with the materials of the case begins.

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    February 6, 2019

    Appeal hearing. Judge of the Kemerovo Regional Court Elena Volkova upholds the decision to extend the period of Levchuk's detention.

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    February 8, 2019

    Appeal hearing. Judge of the Kemerovo Regional Court Irina Bilograd upholds the decision to extend Britvin's detention.

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    March 12, 2019

    Judge Ivanova makes a decision to extend the fourth term of detention of Britvin and Levchuk for 2 months, i.e. until 19.05.2019.

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    April 3, 2019

    Appeal hearing. The decision to extend the measure of restraint was left unchanged.

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    May 14, 2019

    Judge of the Central District Court of Kemerovo Elena Lapina orders to extend the period of detention of Britvin and Levchuk for 2 months, i.e. until July 19, 2019.

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    May 17, 2019

    A protocol on familiarization with the materials of the criminal case was signed. When signing, petitions were filed: to terminate the criminal case; on the admission of written documents as evidence in a criminal case; on the delivery of a copy of the indictment to the defense counsel; on changing the measure of restraint for the accused Britvin; on the inclusion in the indictment of the list of persons to be summoned to the court session as witnesses.

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    May 30, 2019

    Appeal hearing on the extension of custody. The measure of restraint was upheld.

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    June 7, 2019

    Lawyer Vitaliy Svintsov receives an indictment dated 31.05.2019 on charges of Britvin and Levchuk. An appeal against the decision of the Central District Court of Kemerovo to dismiss the appeal against the challenge of defense counsel is being considered.

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    June 17, 2019

    The lawyer is filing an appeal with the Kemerovo Regional Court against the decision of the Berezovsky City Court of 13.06.2019 to extend the period of detention for Britvin and Levchuk until December 3, 2019.

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    July 9, 2019

    The hearing on the merits. The hearing in the Berezovsky City Court was postponed due to the fact that Sergey Britvin was sent for a medical examination to a correctional colony. The meeting was postponed to July 30, 2019.

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    July 12, 2019

    Appeal hearing on the extension of the measure of restraint. The court shall issue a ruling on the adjournment of the court session due to untimely notification of the accused about the court session. The hearing was postponed until July 15, 2019.

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    July 15, 2019

    Appeal hearing on the extension of the measure of restraint. It was postponed due to poor video conferencing with the pre-trial detention center where the accused are being held.

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    July 19, 2019

    Appeal hearing on the extension of the measure of restraint. The measure of restraint was upheld.

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    July 27, 2019

    Britvin and Levchuk were charged with committing a crime under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

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    July 30, 2019

    The hearing on the merits begins in the Berezovsky City Court. The meeting was postponed due to Britvin's presence in a medical facility.

    The lawyer submits a cassation appeal to the Presidium of the Kemerovo Regional Court against the decision of the Berezovsky City Court of 13.06.2019 and the decision of the Kemerovo Regional Court of 19.07.2019.

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    August 13, 2019

    Judge Vorobyova I. Y. satisfies the petition for the release of the defendants from the cage for the duration of the trial. The public prosecutor issues an indictment. The order of examination of evidence is determined. The questioning of prosecution witnesses has begun.

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    August 14, 2019

    The deputy head of the convoy refuses to obey the judge's order and release the defendants Britvin and Levchuk from the cage. As a result, the defendants remain in the cage despite the court order that has entered into force on their release from it for the entire duration of the trial. Six prosecution witnesses are being questioned.

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    August 19, 2019

    The judge of the Kemerovo Regional Court refuses to transfer the cassation appeal dated 30.07.2019 to the Presidium of the Regional Court.

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    August 20, 2019

    Prosecution witnesses are being questioned, including secret witness Dmitry Vasin (in reality: Yevgeny Denisovich Gomoyunov), as well as FSB operative Zadorin. A petition for the interrogation of a secret witness in accordance with the general procedure shall be filed. The court refuses, the witness is interrogated in a separate room with a changed voice.

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    August 21, 2019

    Interrogation of prosecution witnesses.

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    September 4, 2019

    Interrogation of prosecution witnesses, including senior media relations specialist of the Berezovsky police department Onischuk S.V. and neighbors of the defendants.

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    September 12, 2019

    The lawyer submits a cassation appeal against the decision of the Berezovsky City Court of 13.06.2019 and the decision of the Kemerovo Regional Court of 19.07.2019 (on the measure of restraint) to the higher Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.

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    September 17, 2019

    A motion is filed to merge the criminal cases of Britvin and Levchuk with the criminal case of Hasan Kogut, which is currently being considered by the same court. The court rejects this request. Interrogation of prosecution witnesses, as well as Kogut himself. Actively quotes the Bible during interrogation.

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    September 18, 2019

    Prosecution witnesses do not appear at the hearing.

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    November 12, 2019

    The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation satisfies the cassation appeal against the decision of the Berezovsky City Court of 13.06.2019 and the decision of the Kemerovo Regional Court of 19.07.2019 (on the measure of restraint). Judge of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation Vasily Zykin, having studied the circumstances of the case, notes that the decision on the 6-month extension of the period of detention of Kemerovo residents Sergey Britvin and Vadim Levchuk "cannot be recognized as lawful and justified." The Supreme Court refers the cassation appeal for consideration to the newly created Eighth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction (located in the city of Kemerovo).

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    November 27, 2019

    The Berezovsky City Court extends the period of detention of Sergey Britvin and Vadim Levchuk for another 3 months, that is, until March 3, 2020.

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    December 2, 2019

    The lawyer is filing an appeal with the Kemerovo Regional Court against the decision of the Berezovsky City Court of 27.11.2019 to extend the period of detention for Britvin and Levchuk until March 3, 2020.

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    December 23, 2019

    The Kemerovo Regional Court changes the decision of the Berezovsky City Court of 27.11.2019 (on a 3-month extension of the period of detention of believers) and assigns them house arrest. On the same day, the Eighth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction cancels the appeal decision of the Kemerovo Regional Court of 19.07.2019 (on a 6-month extension of the period of detention of believers) and returns the case to the Kemerovo Regional Court for the appeal stage.

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    December 25, 2019

    Late in the evening, Levchuk and Britvin are released from the pre-trial detention center. They are placed under house arrest.

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    December 26, 2019
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    December 27, 2019
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    January 16, 2020

    Hearing in the Berezovsky City Court. Vadim Levchuk testified.

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    January 17, 2020

    Meeting in the Kemerovo Regional Court to consider an appeal against the extension of the period of detention until 03.12.2019 after the return of the case from the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation and the 8th Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction. The decision of the court of first instance to extend the detention was canceled, the proceedings on the appeal were terminated.

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    January 27, 2020

    Sergey Britvin is being interrogated. In his talk, he talks about how, thanks to the Bible, he turned from a street boxer and drinker leading an immoral lifestyle into a decent person. Sergey also shares how advice from the Bible and communication with Jehovah's Witnesses helped him save his marriage, which was on the verge of collapse. The believer emphasizes that he did not call for the severance of family and family relations with people who do not share the religious views of Jehovah's Witnesses, as the investigation claims.

    The defense is petitioning for changes in the conditions of detention of Britvin and Levchuk under house arrest. The court partially satisfies the petitions: Sergey Britvin is allowed daily hourly walks in the daytime. Also, both believers can now use the means of communication to communicate with lawyers.

    More than 40 people attended the hearing.

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    January 28, 2020

    The questioning of defense witnesses begins. The first to testify are the 80-year-old mother and sons of Vadim Levchuk, then the brother of Sergey Britvin. Relatives who do not share the views of Jehovah's Witnesses explain that they never noticed any extremist manifestations in the actions and words of Vadim and Sergey, nor did they hear negative statements about people of other faiths.

    The defense summons three more witnesses who distinguish between the concepts of "meeting" and "LRO", and also convincingly show that since February 2017 and, especially, after the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, no activity has been carried out by the LRO of Jehovah's Witnesses in Mr. Berezovsky.

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    February 27, 2020

    Due to the fact that the criminal case against Britvin and Levchuk "is particularly difficult due to the large number of volumes (20) of the case, witnesses for the prosecution and defense," the judge issues a decision to extend the house arrest of believers "with previously established prohibitions" until June 3.

    Three other defence witnesses are being questioned.

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    March 12, 2020

    In Kemerovo, an appeal hearing is being held on a complaint against the refusal to change the prohibitions and restrictions on house arrest. The court upheld the chosen measure of restraint.

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    April 13, 2020

    The Kemerovo Regional Court is considering appeals against the extension of the terms of house arrest of Britvin and Levchuk and leaves unchanged the decision of the Berezovsky City Court.

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    June 1, 2020

    In the Berezovsky City Court of the Kemerovo Region, prosecution witnesses are being questioned - FSB investigators who personally participated in searches, interrogations and other investigative actions. Sergey Britvin, Vadim Levchuk and their lawyers object and ask to postpone the hearing in order to prepare questions for the investigators. Judge Irina Vorobyova refuses.

    The FSB investigators claim in their testimony that the interrogations and searches were carried out "very humanely and kindly."

    The court also summons prosecution witness Yevgeny Gomoyunov (he was previously questioned as secret witness Dmitry Vasin). He repeats the testimony given at the meeting on August 20, 2019.

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    June 16, 2020

    At the request of the lawyer, the judge admits four listeners to the hall, provided that they maintain social distance.

    The court interrogates a defense witness - the general director of the enterprise where Vadim Levchuk previously worked. He characterizes the defendant as a responsible, executive, non-confrontational employee who has never tried to impose his beliefs on others. He also expresses his conviction that Vadim does not pose any threat to society and the state.

    Further, the court interrogates the last witness for the defense, Vadim Levchuk's daughter-in-law. She speaks warmly of the defendant, talks about family traditions and notes that, despite differences in religious views, they have never had conflicts on this basis. According to the witness, she is not afraid to leave her young daughter with Vadim and his wife, knowing that they will not cause any harm to the child.

    The judge grants Levchuk's petition for a partial viewing of the video recording of the service. The shooting was previously stated as material evidence of the guilt of the defendants in organizing the activities of the banned LRO.

    Irina Vorobyova rejects the repeated petition to declassify the identity of Dmitry Vasin and interrogate him in the courtroom. The meeting was adjourned to the next day.

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    June 17, 2020

    The judge grants the prosecutor's request to extend the period of detention of believers Britvin and Levchuk under house arrest. The preventive measure remains until September 3, 2020.

    On July 2, 2020, the debate of the parties is scheduled.

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    July 3, 2020

    The arguments of the parties shall be adjourned due to the leave of the judge. The prosecutor's speech will take place on July 28, and the defense will take place on August 18 and, if necessary, on August 19.

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    July 28, 2020 Prosecutor requested punishment

    Speaking during the debate in the Berezovsky City Court of the Kemerovo Region, the state prosecutor recommends that the judge appoint Sergey Britvin and Vadim Levchuk to 6.5 years in a general regime colony plus restriction of liberty for one year in accordance with Article 53 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Also, the state prosecutor asks to set off as punishment the term of imprisonment in the pre-trial detention center, where each of them spent 524 days, as well as the term of house arrest. Believers deny any involvement in extremism. They are scheduled to speak in the debate on 18 and 19 August 2020.

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    August 18, 2020 Prosecutor requested punishment

    The meeting is postponed to September 2, 2020. On this day, the court may announce the verdict to Levchuk and Britvin.

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    September 2, 2020 Final statement First Instance Sentence

    There are more than 30 listeners in the hall of the Berezovsky City Court. Sergey Britvin addresses the court with the last word of the defendant. Following him, Vadim Levchuk speaks with the last word . The court retires to the deliberation room. Judge Irina Vorobyova announces the verdict: to find them guilty and sentence them to 4 years in prison in a penal colony. In addition, they will be subject to another 1 year of restriction of freedom and they will be banned from holding certain positions for another 3 years. The court's decision has not entered into force. Believers will appeal against it.

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    January 19, 2021 Court of Appeal

    The Kemerovo Regional Court rejects the appeal of believers Sergey Britvin and Vadim Levchuk against the verdict of the Berezovsky City Court, by which men were sent to a penal colony in September for their faith. At the time of the entry into force of the verdict, both had spent 1 year and 10 months plus 8 months under house arrest in pre-trial detention in a pre-trial detention center. This means that they have de jure already served more than 3 of the 4 years assigned to them in a general regime colony.

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    February 15, 2021

    Sergey Britvin and Vadim Levchuk from Anzhero-Sudzhensk are transferred more than 200 kilometers away - to pre-trial detention center No. 1 in Novosibirsk. It is not yet known where the believers will serve their sentences.

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    March 8, 2021 Life in prison

    It becomes known that Sergei Britvin is being transferred to penal colony No. 3 of the general regime. IK-3 is located within the city of Novosibirsk and is intended for convicts serving their sentences for the first time. The colony has its own diversified production, which includes woodworking and metalworking workshops, furniture production, and a sewing section.

    Sergey's term of imprisonment ends approximately in December 2021.

    Vadim Levchuk remains in SIZO-1 in Novosibirsk.

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    March 11, 2021 Life in prison

    It becomes known about the transfer of Vadim Levchuk from SIZO-1 in Novosibirsk to correctional colony No. 3 of the general regime, where Sergey Britvin was transferred in early March. Vadim's term of imprisonment ends approximately at the end of December 2021 - the beginning of January 2022.

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    September 15, 2021 Life in prison

    For health reasons, Sergey Britvin cannot lift more than two kilograms, so other prisoners help him cope with everyday chores - wash clothes, heat water.

    Vadim Levchuk and Sergey Britvin have a good reputation among other prisoners, they respect their faith.

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    September 17, 2021 Life in prison

    Levchuk does not go to work in the canteen, citing his state of health, which is confirmed by medical documents, and asks to provide him with another job. The administration of the colony replies that there is no other work for him. By the decision of the commission, the believer was sent to a punishment cell (SHIZO) for three days, allegedly because of his refusal to work. This is the second disciplinary "violation" that he is unreasonably charged with: he was previously reprimanded for allegedly "storing food in a bedside table", which was used by two prisoners. Levchuk learns about the penalty imposed on him only a few months later. In fact, the inspection revealed that the food in the bedside table was stored by another prisoner, but the penalty imposed on Levchuk was not canceled.

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    September 20, 2021 Life in prison

    Levchuk is transferred to strict conditions of serving a sentence (SUON), since he was previously unreasonably recognized as a malicious violator of the order.

    The premises of the SWAN are designed for 40 people, but are not fully filled. There is a sports ground, a place to relax, to watch TV and to eat. It is very cold indoors before the start of the heating season. The food is satisfactory.

    Vadim tries not to lose courage and focus on the positive, and he also maintains good relations with his cellmates. Levchuk and Britvin have about 3 months left before the end of their prison term.

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    December 30, 2021 Life in prison

    Sergey Britvin and Vadim Levchuk are released after serving the full 4 years in prison assigned to them by the court.

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    February 1, 2022

    13 friends and relatives of the defendants were allowed into the courtroom, 4 more remained in the corridor. The case is considered by judges I.V. Pavlova, I.G. Karimova and I.A. Rubanov, who are respectfully listened to by all parties. In their speeches, Britvin and Levchuk exude confidence and a kind attitude towards the court, behave with dignity, speak confidently and in no way resemble people who have just served their sentences in a colony. After the meeting, the judges announce the ruling: to refuse to satisfy the cassation appeal.