Case of Ermolaev and Others in Chita

Case history

Vladimir Ermolaev, Aleksandr Putintsev, Sergey Kirilyuk and Igor Mamalimov faced prosecution for their faith in 2020, when security forces carried out 50 searches in Chita and other cities in Transbaikalia. During the raid, several believers were detained and two were tortured. Mamalimov, Kirilyuk and Ermolaev were placed in a temporary detention facility, where they spent several days. At some point, four more believers were suspects in the case, but their criminal prosecution was discontinued. For holding peaceful religious services, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation accused Ermolaev, Putintsev, Mamalimov and Kirilyuk of organizing the activity of an extremist organization. Despite the fact that there were no victims in the case and there was no evidence of crimes against the state and the individual, in 2022 the court sentenced Vladimir Ermolaev, Aleksandr Putintsev and Igor Mamalimov to imprisonment in a penal colony for 6 to 6.5 years, and Sergey Kirilyuk - to 6 years suspended. The court of appeal upheld this verdict. The courts of appeal and cassation did not change this verdict.

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    June 15, 2019

    While relaxing by the river, next to the tents, Chita believers notice themselves being surveilled: they discover tracking devices and hidden audio recordings.

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    February 10, 2020 Search

    During the day, officers of the FSB and other bodies conduct searches in 50 houses of believers in cities and towns of the Trans-Baikal Territory, namely: Chita (20 searches), Khilok (4 searches), Krasnokamensk (4 searches), Baley (3 searches) and Petrovsk-Zabaikalsky (2 searches), the villages of Yasnogorsk (6 searches), Amazar (4 searches), Duldurga (2 searches), Verkhnyaya Hila (1 search), Kurort-Darasun (1 search) and Pervomaiskoye (1 search), as well as in the villages of Verkh-Chita (1 search), Zasopka (1 search) and Ilya (1 search). (Information about raids against believers in Karymsky and Shilka has not been confirmed.) At least 10 people were detained for interrogation. 31-year-old Vladimir Ermolaev (married), 47-year-old Sergey Kirilyuk (married), Pavel Mamalimov (married, has a young daughter), 31-year-old Vadim Kutsenko (married) remain in custody.

    During a search in the home of another family, the security forces beat the minor Alexander Karpov. Law enforcement officers forcibly knocked him to the floor, put his hands behind his head and beat him in front of his mother and younger sister. The young man is forced to "crawl" into the living room, where law enforcement officers read out a search warrant. The search lasts 12 hours. (Later, the lawyer in Alexander's interests filed a complaint with the investigation department about the actions of the security forces. The medical expert records the traces of beatings, and a specialist goes to inspect the house, who removes tights with traces of Alexander's blood.)

    Among others, the search takes place in the house of Olga Polyakova, a 62-year-old resident of Khilka, a disabled person of group III. Although she has difficulty moving, she is taken away for interrogation after the search. In the same city, security forces search the home of the Maltsev family. Both spouses are on disability and are raising a minor daughter. During the search, an ambulance is called for the spouses. Despite this, the head of the family, Vadim, is taken away for interrogation.

    The Vasilyev spouses, who live in Kurort-Darasun with four minor children, were invaded by law enforcement officers early in the morning. During the search, the head of the family, a disabled person of group III, felt unwell, but he was still taken away for interrogation.

    The Investigative Committee reports that more than 30 investigative and operational groups were formed before the raids, which simultaneously worked in Chita and the districts of the Trans-Baikal Territory.

    31-year-old Vadim Kutsenko is handcuffed behind his back, his eyes are closed and he is subjected to beatings, strangulation and electric shocks to the lower leg and abdomen in an official car, demanding a confession. During the torture, Vadim Kutsenko refuses to admit guilt or give false testimony against his fellow believers. A company car stops in the forest behind the SibVO stadium. They take off his hat from his eyes and force him to get out of the car and beat him on the legs. After that, he is taken to the investigator, where he immediately declares the torture applied to him.

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    February 12, 2020

    The Ingodinsky District Court of Chita sends Vladimir Ermolaev under house arrest until March 20, 2020. The arrest of Pavel Mamalimov, Sergey Kirilyuk and Vadim Kutsenko was extended for another 72 hours, until February 15 inclusive.

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    February 14, 2020

    Vadim Kutsenko sends an appeal to the head of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Trans-Baikal Territory, Y. S. Rusanov, with a request to initiate a criminal case on the fact of torture and bring the perpetrators to justice.

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    February 15, 2020

    After 5 days of detention, without charge, believers Vadim Kutsenko, Pavel Mamalimov and Sergey Kirilyuk were released. They remain suspects. The believers were released because the Investigative Committee withdrew the petition for them to be chosen as a measure of restraint. Vladimir Yermolaev remains under house arrest.

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    February 20, 2020

    It becomes known that the number of believers in Chita who are prosecuted for their faith under Part 1 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation is nine. Among them are the accused: Vladimir Ermolaev; suspects: Sergey Kirilyuk, Vadim Kutsenko, Alexei Loskutov, Vadim Maltsev, Pavel Mamalimov, Igor Mamalimov, Alexander Putintsev and Alexander Trofimov. It is known that minor children are raised by at least four of these peaceful believers (Kirilyuk, Maltsev, I. Mamalimov, Trofimov).

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    February 27, 2020 Search
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    March 12, 2020

    In a joint statement , 27 European states that are members of the European Union (EU), as well as 6 other non-EU countries, at a meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), call for an investigation into the report that Vadim Kutsenko, before he was detained, was tortured. Law enforcement officers repeatedly beat and choked him, as well as beat him with electric shocks, demanding information about other Jehovah's Witnesses.

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    April 3, 2020

    Employees of the Federal Penitentiary Service take Vladimir Yermolaev to the investigation department. After 50 days under house arrest, the investigator changes his preventive measure to a written undertaking not to leave the place.

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    April 6, 2020

    The Investigative Committee refuses to satisfy the appeal, arguing that the check did not confirm the fact of torture. The Investigative Committee confined itself to taking explanations from the operatives, who were allegedly forced to use force in response to Kutsenko's resistance.

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    May 23, 2020

    An employee of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation is interviewing Alexander Karpov, who was beaten by police during a raid on February 10, 2020. The investigator also photographs the crime scene.

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    June 3, 2020
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    June 22, 2020

    It becomes known that the investigation considers Vadim Maltsev not as a suspect, but as a witness in a criminal case for faith in Chita. Thus, the total number of believers known to be declared suspects and accused in a criminal case is 7 people. Kutsenko sends a complaint to the Chita Garrison Military Court: "The inspection is incomplete and one-sided, which is why the decision to refuse to initiate a criminal case was made prematurely and is illegal and unreasonable. Investigator, contrary to the requirements of Part 2. Article 21 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation, actions aimed at properly verifying the arguments of the application and capable of refuting or confirming the information contained therein, including those specified in the text of the application, have not been carried out. Kutsenko draws attention to the contradictions in the testimonies of the officers who tortured him, and the selective approach to the evaluation of evidence. Asks to recognize the refusal to initiate a criminal case as illegal.

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    June 26, 2020

    During the hearing in the Chita Garrison Military Court, Kutsenko learns that the head of the investigative body canceled the decision to refuse to initiate a criminal case on the torture allegation. The cancellation of the ruling means that the pre-investigation check on the allegations of torture continues.

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    July 8, 2020

    The investigator begins interrogations of the defendants in the case of Vladimir Ermolaev. The first to be interviewed were Vadim Kutsenko, Igor Mamalimov and Alexander Putintsev. Alexei Loskutov was also issued a summons. During interrogations, suspects are asked to provide handwriting and voice samples. Believers are considering the possibility of refusing to provide data on the basis of Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

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    July 13, 2020

    It becomes known that a 60-year-old local resident Georgy Senotrusov was involved as a suspect.

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    November 11, 2020

    V. A. Zhuravlev, an investigator of the second department for the investigation of especially important cases of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Trans-Baikal Territory, from the criminal case of Ermolaev and others in Chita, identifies materials against Vadim Kutsenko, Aleksey Loskutov, Pavel Mamalimov and at least 12 other believers to verify their involvement in the commission of other crimes: participation in the activities of a religious association banned by the court, involvement of other persons in it and financing of extremist activities.

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    January 11, 2021

    Zhuravlev terminates the criminal prosecution of Vadim Kutsenko, Aleksey Loskutov, Pavel Mamalimov and another believer due to the absence of corpus delicti in their actions under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (organizing the activities of a religious association banned by the court). However, there is still a possibility that believers may be prosecuted for participating in religious activities.

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    February 2, 2021

    It becomes known that the investigator sent a criminal case against four Jehovah's Witnesses to the prosecutor's office for signature: Vladimir Yermolaev, Sergey Kirilyuk, Igor Mamalimov, and Alexander Putintsev. They are charged with organizing the activities of a banned organization (Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

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    February 15, 2021

    Deputy Prosecutor of the Trans-Baikal Territory T. F. Magomedov approves the indictment against Putintsev, Ermolaev, Kirilyuk and Mamalimov.

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    February 17, 2021

    The case goes to the Central District Court of Chita.

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    March 16, 2021 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The judge warns that listeners will not be allowed into the hall because of covid. The defendants refuse the appointed lawyers, but the court is not satisfied. The Public Prosecutor shall announce the indictment. The defendants express their attitude to the prosecution. For example, Alexander Putintsev, expressing his attitude to the charges, says: "The main question that arises in my mind: why did I, a believer, need to organize the activities of a legal entity? What spiritual needs as a believer could I not satisfy without the LRO or its structural subdivisions?" He has a legal, constitutional right to worship God without forming a legal entity, and the charges against him and his friends are illegal.

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    April 8, 2021 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Alexander Putintsev, in the interests of better protection, asks for the possibility of visual contact with the interrogated witnesses, but the judge, without listening to the opinion of the parties, refuses, adding: "Comfortable conditions can only be at the resort, and we are in the courtroom."

    Witness Aleksandr Dzhupina from the Department of Justice explains that the department has not received any negative information regarding Jehovah's Witnesses, and there have been no violations related to extremism. The Charter of the liquidated LRO did not say anything about elders and the council of elders, there was only a "chairman". Witness Ilya Barinov, a religious scholar, explains that Jehovah's Witnesses did not call for violence. In the fact that they refuse to serve in the army in favor of the ACS, he does not see a negative attitude towards the authorities. Other religions also refuse the army.

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    April 15, 2021

    Due to the illness of one of the defendants, the hearing is adjourned.

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    May 27, 2021

    During the trial, the prosecution witness, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor of the Department of Philosophy of the Trans-Baikal State University Artyom Zhukov is interrogated. Since 2002, he has been involved in the work of the Council on Religious Associations under the Administration of the Chita Region and the Governor of the Trans-Baikal Territory. He believes that the activities of the Chita group are the canonical activities of Jehovah's Witnesses throughout the world.

    "The life of Jehovah's Witnesses is one of the most dramatic, in Transbaikalia, I mean, and the most dramatic and holistic moments. The existence of the organization itself, I think, is still underestimated at the world level, and their feat will still be appreciated. And, of course, the persecution that they are experiencing today will also be assessed in due time, and in due time everything will be restored to their rights. Because there are no other options in world history. But at the moment, real people are suffering." (During the Soviet years, Jehovah's Witnesses were repressed for their faith, exiled, and sent to camps in Siberia, Transbaikalia, and the Far East.)

    Regarding the position of Jehovah's Witnesses regarding the rejection of blood donation, Zhukov notes: "If a person accepts this as his decision, then I do not think that this contradicts the basic principles of the Constitution." He confirms that they do not refuse medical treatment: "They are normal people, and when medical intervention is necessary, it is quite obvious."

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    June 15, 2021 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    16 people come to the hearing. The first three volumes of the case materials, which contain telephone conversations of Alexander Putintsev and transcripts of his conversations via video link, are examined.

    The prosecutor does not read the transcripts in full, but only lists their titles.

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    June 25, 2021 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    12 people are present at the hearing.

    The court examines the video materials of the case as evidence for the prosecution. At the same time, the judge violates the rights of the defendant Vladimir Ermolaev, not giving him the opportunity to comment on the viewing of one of the videos. Also, the judge does not give the opportunity to watch the video to the end.

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    July 12, 2021 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    8 people come to the next hearing. The study of material evidence seized during the search continues. Among others, a printed article is read out: "How not to hurt each other with words?"

    At the next meetings, they will continue to familiarize themselves with the case materials.

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    December 16, 2021 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    To support the believers, 15 people come to the court session. During the hearing, the prosecutor reads out the record of the examination of material evidence, including the contents of the notebook with notes of culinary recipes, which, in the opinion of the prosecutor, are information of interest to the criminal case.

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    January 18, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The information seized from Igor Mamalimov's phones is being investigated. The prosecutor reads out one of the messages found on the phone in full: "Igor, thank you for your advice, they are so useful, loving and invaluable." Sergey Kirilyuk's petition for full acquaintance with the content of some open-source videos presented to the court as prosecution evidence was also granted.

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    January 26, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Igor Mamalimov was hospitalized due to surgery and is not present at the court hearing. The prosecutor asks the court to make a request to the hospital and then choose a measure of restraint for the believer in the form of imprisonment in a pre-trial detention center. He believes that Mamalimov is delaying the process. The court also receives a response from the hospital about the state of health of Sergey Kirilyuk, which says that he also cannot attend the court. In this regard, the prosecutor asks the court to separate the case of Kirilyuk into a separate proceeding. But the court decides to first summon his attending physician for questioning.

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    February 1, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court does not satisfy the prosecutor's request to separate the case of Sergey Kirilyuk into a separate proceeding.

    During the hearing, three videos from open sources presented to the court as evidence for the prosecution are played, but another 9 files are refused to be viewed for technical reasons.

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    February 3, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The prosecutor finishes providing evidence from the prosecution.

    Judge Marina Kuklina announces that the court is moving to the stage of interrogation of the defendants, although according to the Code of Criminal Procedure, Part 2 of Article 274 "... After examining the evidence presented by the prosecution, the evidence presented by the defense is examined.

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    February 7, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Four defendants file petitions with the court with a request to exercise their right to provide evidence by the defense, and then proceed to the interrogation of the defendants.

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    February 16, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The hearing in the case of Vladimir Yermolayev and three other believers continues. The defense provides its evidence.

    Vladimir Yermolaev asks the court to examine the evidence of the prosecution previously attached to the materials of the criminal case as evidence of the defense. However, the court refuses to examine these materials, explaining that it was necessary to declare when the prosecutor examined them, allegedly this is the procedure. (At the same time, on June 25, 2021, the court denied Yermolaev the opportunity to comment on the prosecution's evidence at the stage of examination.) Yermolaev is also denied pages from his passport. These pages show that on a number of dates that are imputed to him, he was absent from the country, and therefore could not have committed these offenses.

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    March 30, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    About 20 people come to the courthouse to support the believers.

    The last of the defendants gives his testimony to the court.

    The judge refuses to satisfy the defense's petitions, including the study of the book "Tetragrammaton", the announcement of the decision of the Supreme Court of 20.04.2017 and information about the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses, about the presence of Yermolaev's wife at the announcement of the verdict. Some of these requests had previously been partially granted by the judge.

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    May 11, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance Prosecutor requested punishment

    The debate of the parties is taking place. The prosecutor requests 7 years of imprisonment in a penal colony for Vladimir Yermolayev and Aleksandr Putintsev, and 6 years of suspended sentence for Sergey Kirilyuk and Igor Mamalimov.

    At the next hearing, the debate will continue, the defendants will make their last speech. The date of the verdict is expected to be announced.

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    May 12, 2022 Final statement

    The hearing begins with remarks, which the parties have the right to make in accordance with Article 337 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation.

    Alexander Putintsev, Igor Mamalimov and Sergey Kirilyuk address the court with the last word. The last word of Vladimir Yermolaev is postponed to the next meeting.

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    May 20, 2022
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    June 6, 2022 First Instance Sentence

    The court found the believers guilty and sentenced Vladimir Yermolaev, Aleksandr Putintsev and Igor Mamalimov to 6.5 years of actual imprisonment, and Sergey Kirilyuk to 6 years of suspended imprisonment.

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    June 8, 2022

    It becomes known that the believers sentenced to a real term were taken to pre-trial detention center No. 1 in the Trans-Baikal Territory, located in Chita.

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    September 20, 2022
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    October 8, 2022 Transfer of a prisoner Life in prison

    Vladimir Yermolaev is taken to Correctional Colony No. 3 in Chita. He is quarantined. Another Jehovah's Witness, Roman Baranovsky, is serving time in the same colony for his faith.

    Igor Mamalimov and Aleksandr Putintsev are in the process of being moved to places where they are serving their sentences. It is known that Mamalimov will serve his sentence in Abakan (Khakassia), and Putintsev in the Altai Territory.

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    November 1, 2022 Transfer of a prisoner Life in prison

    Igor Mamalimov was taken to correctional colony No. 35 in the city of Abakan to serve his sentence. He is in quarantine. He can write letters.

    Aleksandr Putintsev arrives at Colony No. 5 in Rubtsovsk, where another Jehovah's Witness, Yuriy Savelyev, is already serving a sentence for his faith. In the admission department of the prison, psychological pressure is exerted on him - about twenty employees of the colony force him to write a statement of cooperation with the administration. Alexander refuses. He is placed in quarantine for two weeks.

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    November 15, 2022 Life in prison

    Putintsev is placed in a punishment cell, where he spends a total of 23 days [according to Article 118 of the Penal Code of the Russian Federation, the maximum period of detention in a punishment cell is 15 days - Ed.]. He received the first penalty for the fact that "the button was not fastened", the second - for the fact that "he did not hold his hand from behind as it should." In this regard, Alexander is recognized as a "malicious violator of the regime."

    The believer receives many letters from fellow believers who support him. He especially likes drawings with biblical scenes.

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    December 7, 2022 Life in prison

    After the punishment cell, Aleksandr Putintsev is transferred to strict conditions of detention (SUS). The representative of the administration explains this by the fact that Alexander is a Jehovah's Witness, and "due to the gravity of the article, he was put on the preventive record as prone to the spread of extremist ideology." He is being held in the SUS along with six other prisoners. The chamber is warm and dry.

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    December 9, 2022 Life in prison

    A lawyer visits Igor Mamalimov in the penal colony.

    The believer is concerned about long-standing heart problems. In the colony, he has access to qualified medical care, diagnostic equipment and medical personnel. Igor's wife prepares the necessary medical documents.

    Igor does not lose heart. He has a Bible from which he draws comforting thoughts. The letters have not yet been handed over to him, explaining this by the fact that the head of the detachment is on vacation.

    He has good relations with his cellmates and the administration. Igor works - he is engaged in the decoration of premises. He is happy about this, because thanks to busyness, time flies faster. In addition to working on weekdays, the believer works half a day on weekends.

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    December 12, 2022 Life in prison Transfer of a prisoner

    Alexander Putintsev is transferred from IK-5 to the regional tuberculosis hospital in Barnaul.

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    December 16, 2022 Life in prison

    The lawyer visits Aleksandr Putintsev in the hospital. The believer says that the conditions of his detention and food are good. Patients can move freely around the 4-storey building, go out into the walking courtyard.

    Alexander has diabetes mellitus, so he was registered with an endocrinologist and provided with all the necessary medicines. The man's health is restored: in six months he lost weight, losing weight by 16 kilograms, and therefore his blood pressure stabilized. The believer maintains good physical shape: every day he does exercises, squats and push-ups.

    Putintsev has a Bible. At times he plays chess with prisoners. Recently, he said, positive emotions increased: prisoners gave him a purple pencil, thereby reminding him of the courage of Jehovah's Witnesses in Nazi Germany.

    Alexander says that during the transfer, he unexpectedly met Andrei Vlasov on the train. The believers were very happy to get acquainted, and fellow travelers were surprised at such warm communication between people who met for the first time.

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    January 31, 2023 Transfer of a prisoner Life in prison

    It becomes known that after 1.5 months of stay in the hospital, Alexander Putintsev returned to IK-5 of Rubtsovsk for further serving his sentence.

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    March 7, 2023
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    June 5, 2023 Transfer of a prisoner Medical treatment within the Federal Penitentiary Service Life in prison

    Igor Mamalimov is transferred to the Medical Correctional Institution No. 34 of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia in the Republic of Khakassia. He can write letters.

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    November 22, 2023 Life in prison

    Wife and son on a date with Aleksandr Putintsev in the colony.

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    December 1, 2023 Life in prison

    Aleksandr Putintsev is still in strict conditions of detention in the colony. He, his wife and son applied to be transferred to a colony closer to home. All applications were rejected in writing. The believer's elderly mother has a chronic illness and is unable to cover a distance of 3,500 kilometers to visit her son.

    Due to the severe form of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, Aleksandr had other aggravated diseases: hypertension, deforming arthrosis, retinopathy and polyneuropathy, because of which he could not even walk for some time. A neurologist prescribed him a cane.

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    February 7, 2024 Life in prison

    Igor Mamalimov was transferred to serve his sentence in a medical correctional institution. He suffers from hypertension, so he periodically seeks medical help. A believer works in a furniture shop, has two incentives, one cash prize. He was trained as a cook.

    In March, Igor is scheduled to have a long meeting with his wife. She does not have the financial opportunity to come on short visits, since she lives in the Trans-Baikal Territory, which is more than 2500 km from the colony.