The case of Moiseyev and Others in Gukovo

Case history

In August 2020 the security forces conducted searches in the homes of residents of Gukovo. The Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case against Aleksey Dyadkin, Vladimir Popov, Yevgeniy Razumov, Aleksey Goreliy, Nikita Moiseyev and Oleg Shidlovskiy. These peaceful believers were accused of organizing the activities of an extremist organization. The men’s crime, according to the investigators, is that they “prayed and sang songs to Jehovah God.” Since August 2020 all six have been in pre-trial. As it later became known, an infiltrated FSB agent had been watching the believers for a long time. In November of 2021 the case went to trial. The testimonies of interviewed religious scholars confirmed that these men were tried only for their peaceful religious activities. In September 2022 the court sentenced Goreliy and Shidlovskiy to six-and-a-half years in a general penal colony, while the rest of the believers were sentenced to seven years. In January of 2023 the appeal court approved the verdict, and then six months later the cassational court upheld it.

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    August 7, 2020

    V. V. Pyatitsky, Senior Investigator of the Department for Investigation of Especially Important Cases of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Rostov Region, initiates a criminal case against 6 believers: Nikita Moiseyev, Aleksey Gorely, Yevgeny Razumov, Aleksey Dyadkin, Oleg Shidlovsky and Vladimir Popov. They are charged with committing a crime under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. According to the investigation, the believers' guilt lies in the fact that they "convened meetings of fellow believers, prayed and sang songs to Jehovah God."

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    August 8, 2020

    Early in the morning, a series of searches of believers in Gukovo (Rostov region) take place. Officers of the FSB and the Investigative Committee invade the homes of civilians and seize mobile devices, hard drives, flash drives and personal records.

    Searches are taking place in Rostov-on-Don at Gorely Alexei, in Kamensk-Shakhtinsky at the home of the married couple Nikita and Sofia Moiseyev, and in Kursk at Olga Dyadkina's.

    Vladimir Popov is put on the federal wanted list.

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    August 9, 2020

    Based on the decision of the judge of the Leninsky District Court of Rostov-on-Don, four believers are sent to the pre-trial detention center for 1 month and 29 days - until October 6, 2020.

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    August 10, 2020
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    August 12, 2020

    FSB officers detain Vladimir Popov, who has been put on the federal wanted list, in the city of Zverevo (Rostov Region). He is suspected of committing a crime under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

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    August 14, 2020

    Judge of the Leninsky District Court of Rostov-on-Don Vladimir Khudaverdyan grants the investigator's request to detain Vladimir Popov. Vladimir is detained in a pre-trial detention center for a period of 1 month and 25 days - until October 7, 2020.

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    August 21, 2020

    Alexei Dyadkin, a resident of Gukovo, who has recently been living in Kursk, comes to the investigator for questioning. There they are trying to convince him to incriminate himself - to confess to extremist actions that the believer did not commit. The security forces are also interrogating Alexei's wife.

    The believer is detained and sent to a temporary detention facility. On the same day, the court issued a decision to detain Aleksey for a period of 1 month and 16 days. After that, Aleksey was imprisoned in pre-trial detention center No. 1 in the Rostov region.

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    June 28, 2021

    A lawyer visits believers in a pre-trial detention center on Maxim Gorky Street in Rostov-on-Don. In some chambers it is stuffy, the temperature sometimes reaches +40 ° C, there is a fungus on the walls. Among the inmates there are patients with coronavirus.

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    July 21, 2021

    It becomes known that Vladimir Popov is being transferred from pre-trial detention center No. 1 to the medical unit of pre-trial detention center No. 5 in connection with suspected pneumonia. He can still write letters.

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    July 27, 2021

    It becomes known that Vladimir Popov is in the Federal State Medical and Prophylactic Institution "Interregional Tuberculosis Hospital No. 19". You can write letters of support.

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    September 30, 2021

    Vladimir Popov is again placed in pre-trial detention center No. 1 in the city of Rostov-on-Don after almost 2 months of stay in a tuberculosis hospital. The believer can write letters of support to the address of the institution.

    He familiarized himself with the materials of the case.

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    November 1, 2021

    Six believers — Nikita Moiseyev, Aleksey Gorely, Yevgeny Razumov, Aleksey Dyadkin, Oleg Shidlovsky, Vladimir Popov — received an indictment. The criminal case against them has already been submitted to the court.

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    November 8, 2021

    It becomes known that Oleg Shidlovsky, Yevgeny Razumov and Alexei Dyadkin are now being held in pre-trial detention center No. 3 in the city of Novocherkassk, Rostov Region. They can receive letters of support. In the near future, the rest of the believers involved in this case, Aleksey Gorely, Nikita Moiseyev and Vladimir Popov, are expected to be transferred to this pre-trial detention center.

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    November 14, 2021

    Nikita Moiseyev, Aleksey Gorely and Vladimir Popov, following the others, are transferred to pre-trial detention center No. 3 in the Rostov region (Novocherkassk).

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    November 17, 2021

    Hearings begin in the Gukovsky District Court of the Rostov Region.

    The defense is petitioning to change the measure of restraint for 6 men to a milder one. The judge refuses and extends their detention in the pre-trial detention center until May 1, 2022.

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    December 3, 2021

    Three prosecution witnesses are being questioned.

    FSB officer I. A. Mikhailov talks about the operational activities carried out, during which the security forces gained access to telephone conversations and video calls of believers. The witness is confused in the testimony, distorts the facts, his words contradict the information that he provided earlier. Mikhailov cannot provide the court with evidence of the defendants' distribution of extremist literature and calls for extremist activity at worship services.

    The next to be interrogated is an employee of the Federal Penitentiary Service P.P. Varderesyan. He claims that he repeatedly conducted preventive conversations with the defendant Oleg Shidlovsky. At the same time, the witness cannot recognize him in the courtroom. Shidlovsky himself informs the court that he does not know this man and that no conversations were held with him.

    Another witness for the prosecution, a woman, says that she attended Jehovah's Witnesses services voluntarily and that she benefited from these meetings. At the services, believers sang songs, prayed, discussed biblical topics, there were no calls for disrespect for authority.

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    December 10, 2021

    The wives of the defendants and other listeners are not allowed to attend the hearing.

    A secret witness of "Moses" is interrogated. He gives contradictory testimony that does not coincide with his explanations in the case file. However, he confirms that he never heard from the defendants calls for the overthrow of the government and the constitutional order, and the worship services of Jehovah's Witnesses consisted of peaceful chants, prayers and biblical discussions, and they "dealt with spiritual issues."

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    December 20, 2021

    The Rostov Regional Court rejects the defendants' appeal against the decision to detain them.

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    December 24, 2021

    Hearings continue in the Gukovsky District Court. A married couple is being questioned as witnesses for the prosecution. They inform the court that they have previously attended worship services of Jehovah's Witnesses. Those present sang songs, prayed, meetings were exclusively religious in nature. At worship services, there were never calls for the overthrow of the constitutional order, violence or hostility on religious grounds, but, on the contrary, were encouraged to show respect for people.

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    January 14, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    A secret witness under the pseudonym "Tolstoy" is interrogated. The court grants his request for declassification. Believers recognize him as a former co-religionist. He does not provide information on the merits of the case, expresses a negative attitude towards Jehovah's Witnesses, and answers questions from the defense evasively.

    Friends of the defendants, as always, meet and accompany the paddy wagon with them with applause.

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    January 21, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The wives of the defendants are allowed to communicate with their husbands in the corridor, but they are not allowed into the courtroom.

    Alla Shadrina, a researcher at the Southern Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, is being interrogated. She claims to be a long-time religious scholar, but her testimony reveals a lack of knowledge of the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. For example, she claims that Jehovah's Witnesses have never been registered in Russia, and she has never heard of the rehabilitation of believers in 1996.

    Nevertheless, Shadrina recognizes that everyone has a state-guaranteed right to choose treatment, in particular to refuse blood transfusions. The witness also states that many religions believe in their exclusivity.

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    January 28, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The wives of the defendants are allowed into the courtroom.

    Sergey Astapov, Doctor of Philosophy, Head of the Department of Philosophy of Religion and Religious Studies of the Institute of Philosophy and Socio-Political Sciences (Southern Federal University), is being interrogated. He explains that the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation banned only the legal entities of Jehovah's Witnesses, and their worship services are not prohibited. He characterizes the activities of adherents of this religion positively. He also confirms that citizens of the Russian Federation have the right to refuse blood transfusions, and that the creed of many religions contains the idea of their own exclusivity.

    Alexei Dyadkin petitioned for a meeting with his wife, but the judge refused. Natalia Batura refers to Article 395 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation (Granting relatives a meeting with a convicted person), despite the fact that Dyadkin is in the status of a defendant.

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    February 15, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The secret witness "Petrov" is being interrogated. The defence notes that he is repeating memorized wording from the testimony given during the interrogation. Due to the contradictions in his statements, the court listens to an audio recording of his testimony given during the investigation. After an hour of listening, the witness declares that the disc allegedly recorded not his voice, but whose - he does not know.

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    February 22, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    At the request of the lawyer, transcripts of divine services are read out within 4.5 hours, at which they discussed how to tactfully and respectfully communicate with representatives of other religions, how to show love for others.

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    March 14, 2022

    The lawyer visits Aleksey Dyadkin and Vladimir Popov in the pre-trial detention center.

    Popov feels fine, he would like to move more. The believer has a separate bed. Relations with cellmates are good: he is respected, he is kindly called Uncle Vova. Vladimir has a Bible, which he borrowed from the library. He reads a lot, and it helps him not to lose heart.

    In the cell where Dyadkin is kept, there are 14 people for 12 beds, so Alexei and his cellmate are forced to sleep either in turns or with a jack. The believer receives many letters, but he is not given visits with his wife.

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    April 22, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    During the 6 hours of the court session, the court watches three discs with video recordings of worship services. The defense draws attention to the fact that the meetings are religious in nature and have nothing to do with the meetings of a legal entity.

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

    The court extends the measure of restraint for the defendants for three months, until August 1, 2022. The believers intend to appeal this decision to the Rostov Regional Court.

    Oleg Shidlovsky becomes ill, in connection with which the court takes a break.

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    May 13, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court continues to watch videos of the services. The defense emphasizes that they do not contain extremist statements or calls for the overthrow of the state system.

    The registration documents of the local legal entity (LRO) of Jehovah's Witnesses are being examined. The defense draws attention to the fact that before the liquidation of the LRO, its meetings were held once a year, while divine services, the recording of which was provided to the court, were held twice a week.

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    May 20, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Religious scholar Sergei Ivanenko testifies. He explains that the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation does not prohibit the doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses. He also comments on the videos of worship services, explaining the difference between the activities of legal entities and the confession of faith by individual believers.

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

    Two witnesses from the defense are being questioned. One of them, the former leader of Alexei Gorely, positively characterizes the believer.

    The lawyer reads out materials from the 39th volume of the case, containing religious expertise, as well as statements by the President of the Russian Federation V. V. Putin and the decisions of the ECHR regarding Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia.

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    June 10, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Vladimir Popov partially voices his testimony, after which the court attaches his written notes to the case file. Alexei Dyadkin also testifies, after which the prosecutor interrogates him.

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    June 17, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Oleg Shidlovsky, Nikita Moiseev and Yevgeny Razumov testify, after which they are interrogated by the judge and the prosecutor.

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    June 24, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The defense file motions: for the appointment of a second religious examination, for the recognition of some case materials as inadmissible evidence, for the termination of the criminal case and the admission of evidence substantiating this petition.

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

    The court rejects all the motions filed at the previous hearing.

    The issue of extending the measure of restraint for the defendants is being considered. The defense provides positive characteristics of the defendants, as well as a number of significant arguments, including the text of the speech of the Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation Vyacheslav Lebedev (in which he called on judges to use preventive measures alternative to detention more often). Despite this, Judge Natalia Batura once again extends the measure of restraint for three months, until 01.11.2022.

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    July 7 - 11, 2022

    The lawyer visits Vladimir Popov, Aleksey Dyadkin, Nikita Moiseyev, Yevgeniy Razumov, Aleksey Gorely and Oleg Shidlovsky in the pre-trial detention center. According to him, all the prisoners feel satisfied, they have Bibles. Prisoners are taken out for walks.

    Believers are worried about their relatives who remained at large. Oleg Shidlovsky's father is dying, and the believer is worried about whether he will be able to say goodbye to him. The wife of Yevgeniy Razumov is a disabled person of group II, she is not able to work. Eugene worries that his wife is left alone and he cannot help her.

    Nevertheless, believers are not discouraged. They have good relations with the administration, their cellmates respect them.

    The conditions of detention are different for everyone. Two more were placed in Alexei Dyadkin's cell. Now there are 16 people for 12 beds, so he is forced to sleep on a net stretched between two beds. Together with Nikita Moiseev, 14 people are kept, and there are only 7 beds, so the prisoners sleep in turns - Nikita rests at night. Yevgeny Razumov's cell, designed for seven, contains 12 people. Oleg Shidlovsky has his own bed, despite the fact that there are almost twice as many people in the room as there are beds.
    Nikita Moiseev says that he and other believers are transported in a paddy wagon measuring 1.7 by 2 meters, in which twelve people are put instead of the prescribed eight. It happens that the car stands for a long time in front of the entrance to the pre-trial detention center - once the waiting time was seven hours.

    Believers are supported by letters from family and friends. For example, Oleg Shidlovsky has already received 6609 letters - not only from Russia, but also from other countries, such as the Czech Republic, Germany and Slovenia.

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    July 20, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The Rostov Regional Court considers the defendants' complaints about the extension of the measure of restraint and leaves the decision of the lower court in force.

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    August 4, 2022 Prosecutor requested punishment

    The wives of the defendants are present at the hearing, with the exception of Vladimir Popov's wife, who is absent due to illness.

    In the debate, the prosecutor asks the court to appoint Moiseyev, Shidlovsky, Popov, Dyadkin and Razumov to 8 years each, and Gorely to 7.5 years in prison in a colony. In addition, for all defendants, the state prosecutor requests 1 year of restriction of freedom and a seven-year ban on participation in public associations

    The defense draws attention to the absence of corpus delicti and the event of the crime. The lawyers emphasize that the defendants had no motive to commit a crime, and there are no victims in the case.

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    September 12, 2022 Final statement

    In the Gukovsky City Court of the Rostov Region, all six defendants give their last word.

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    September 19, 2022
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    January 12, 2023

    Despite the fact that convicted believers continue to be kept in overcrowded cells, everyone has their own bed. According to them, the conditions of detention are relatively good, but they all suffer from the fact that there is a lot of smoking in the cells. According to Alexei Gorely, they take you for a walk only 2 times a week.

    Vladimir Popov says that at night the cell is very noisy, which is why he does not get enough sleep. As a result, his blood pressure rises. The doctor in the medical unit gave Vladimir sleeping pills. The rest of the believers are doing well.

    For more than a month and a half, they were not given letters of support, but then they were given out immediately in large numbers: Alexei Gorely - 150, Oleg Shidlovsky - 80, Nikita Moiseev - 70. As believers say, their cellmates also like to read these letters, sometimes they even help to answer them.

    Alexei Gorely says that one of his cellmates treated him badly. However, the believer treated him kindly and shared food. This impressed the prisoner, and now he and Alexei have a good relationship.

    One of the employees of the pre-trial detention center, observing the believers, every time he says: "What are you being judged for? What are you sitting for? I don't understand."

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    January 19, 2023
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    February 23, 2023 Transfer of a prisoner

    Moiseev, Popov, Shidlovsky, Gorely and Razumov arrive at Correctional Colony No. 3 in the Ulyanovsk Region, where Vilen and Arsen Avanesov are already serving their sentences. The believers were placed in quarantine for two weeks.

    Aleksey Dyadkin is in the process of being transferred to a penal colony.

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    March 9, 2023 Transfer of a prisoner Life in prison

    It becomes known that Alexei Dyadkin arrived at the Correctional Colony No. 2 in Lipetsk to serve his sentence.

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    May 11, 2023 Life in prison

    Nikita Moiseev, Alexei Gorely, Vladimir Popov, Evgeny Razumov and Oleg Shidlovsky are divided into different squads. They all work in the sewing industry from 8:00 to 20:00 with short breaks during the day.

    Believers endure the difficulties associated with the conditions of stay in the colony: there is often no water, in one of the barracks for 80 people there are long queues for the toilet and bathroom. Shidlovsky, Popov, Moiseev and Gorely need medical examination and treatment.

    The attitude towards believers on the part of the prisoners and the administration is good, since Konstantin Bazhenov, who served his sentence for his faith in this colony, had a good reputation as one of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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    June 26, 2023 Life in prison

    Aleksey Dyadkin is serving a sentence in a penal colony. The barracks where he is kept are clean and quiet. Alexei does not complain about his health, he regularly goes in for sports.

    The believer works in a team for the repair of premises. According to him, the head of the colony often praises him for his work. Other employees of the colony also treat Alexei well because before him there was one of Jehovah's Witnesses, Andrei Andreev, who has proven himself well.

    In April, Aleksey had his first long-term date with his wife. He shared his feelings: "When we hugged, we stood like that for a long time and could not believe that we were hugging each other. I haven't touched Vitalina in about three years." Now Alexei already has two incentives, which gives him the opportunity for an extraordinary short-term meeting with his wife.

    The believer receives many letters, so he does not always have time to answer them, but he is very grateful for the support. Alexey says that from the letters he likes to learn about various scientific facts, cars, technology and history of the Lipetsk region.

    On the territory of the colony there is a large library where Alexei takes and reads literature about construction. He also plans to take part in the competition, which is held by Zonatelecom, on the topic "The book that influenced my life."

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    July 25, 2023
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    November 29, 2023 Life in prison

    Nikita Moiseyev, Aleksey Gorely, Vladimir Popov, Yevgeny Razumov and Oleg Shidlovsky continue to work in the sewing workshop of the colony, where everyone has their own duties. Vladimir works as a packer, Alexei sews on a sewing machine, and Nikita and Evgeniy cut the fabric.

    Oleg Shidlovsky complains of pressure surges, and the medicines he receives from the medical unit are not always effective. Because of this, his eyesight decreases - one eye practically does not see. He needs special drugs and surgery. Vladimir Popov also suffers from hypertension. Alexei Gorely also needs treatment.

    Yevgeny Razumov is worried about his wife, who has poor health. It is difficult for her to walk, because of this great effort it is worth coming on dates.

    All believers have the opportunity to read the Bible. Letters from different cities and countries are also a great support.

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    February 4, 2024 Life in prison Letters Incentive

    The believer is being held in a residential area along with 11 other prisoners. No one smokes in the barracks.

    Alexei goes in for sports, tries to maintain his health. He actively participates in the life of the colony - he took two first places in competitions in kettlebell lifting and Russian bench press, received two certificates of honor.

    Dyadkin is engaged in the interior decoration of buildings and receives a salary, so he can eat in a paid dining room. He has good relations with the administration and other prisoners.

    The believer regularly receives parcels from his wife. As an encouragement, the administration provides him with long visits with his wife.

    Dyadkin regularly receives letters of support. He has a Bible.