Case of Zhukov and Others in Sevastopol

Case History

In October 2020, security forces conducted searches of believers in Sevastopol. The day before, the FSB initiated a criminal case against Vladimir Maladyka, Yevgeniy Zhukov and Vladimir Sakada. They were accused of organizing the activities of an extremist organization only because of their faith in Jehovah God. The charges were based on video recordings of four worship services of Jehovah’s Witnesses made by FSB agents. The believers spent a day in a temporary detention facility, then the court sent them to a pre-trial detention center. In April 2021, the case went to trial. During the hearings, FSB officer Dmitriy Shevchenko, who conducted surveillance of the believers, stated that no signs of extremism or facts of inciting religious hatred were identified in their actions. During the investigation and trial each men spent more than a year and four months in a pre-trial detention center and more than eight months under house arrest. In October 2022, the court sentenced them to six years in prison in a general regime colony. An appeal upheld the decision a year later.

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    September 30, 2020 Case initiated

    In Sevastopol, a criminal case is being initiated against Vladimir Maladyka, Yevgeniy Zhukov and Vladimir Sakada under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (organization of extremist organization activities).

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    October 1, 2020 Search

    Searches are being conducted at least 9 local residents. The security forces take five believers away for interrogation.

    The investigator sends the Maladyka spouses for compulsory examination in a neuropsychiatric dispensary because of a bag of milk powder found at their home, which seemed suspicious to the operatives.

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    October 2, 2020 Search

    The Leninsky District Court of Sevastopol sends Vladimir Maladyka, Yevgeniy Zhukov, Vladimir Sakada and Igor Schmidt to pre-trial detention center No. 1 of Russia in the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.

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    December 11, 2020

    Believers say that they did not receive letters in the pre-trial detention center for some time. They do not return the Bibles that were taken away for examination.

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    February 11, 2021

    FSB investigator Alexander Chumakin summons 6 people for questioning. They use Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. The investigator claims that by doing so they obstruct his work. For some of the men, Chumakin writes out summonses for several days at once, forcing them to spend their time and money on the road from Sevastopol to Simferopol and back (160 km).

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    March 23, 2021

    Vladimir Sakada's measure of restraint has been changed to house arrest.

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    March 24, 2021

    The investigator of the FSB of Russia in the Republic of Crimea A. E. Chumakin attracts Vladimir Maladyka, Yevgeniy Zhukov and Vladimir Sakada as accused.

    The Court of Appeal changes the term of detention of Vladimir Maladyka until April 2, 2021.

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    March 25, 2021

    The Leninsky District Court of Sevastopol leaves Yevgeny Zhukov in custody until May 27, 2021.

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    March 30, 2021

    Vladimir Maladyka's preventive measure was changed to house arrest.

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    April 21, 2021

    The case goes to the Nakhimovsky District Court of Sevastopol. It is appointed to Judge Olga Berdnikova.

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    May 17, 2021

    The judge of the Nakhimovsky District Court of Sevastopol issues a decision to change the measure of restraint for Yevgeny Zhukov to a milder one - house arrest for 5 months and 4 days, or until October 20, 2021. Restrictions and prohibitions have been established for the accused: not to leave the living quarters, not to communicate with other participants in the criminal case, not to use means of communication and the Internet, not to receive or send correspondence.

    The judge also extends the term of house arrest for Vladimir Sakada and Vladimir Maladyka for 6 months - until October 20, 2021.

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    September 30, 2021 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Dmitry Shevchenko, senior detective of the FSB of Russia for the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, is being questioned as a witness for the prosecution. He informs the court that he has been familiar with the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses in Sevastopol since 2015. Shevchenko says that the services of Jehovah's Witnesses have always been exclusively religious in nature - they consisted of chants, prayers and analysis of Bible verses. He notes that the religious activities of Jehovah's Witnesses were officially registered by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation.

    The witness reports that he personally carried out operational-search activities. With the help of "undercover collaborators," he obtained videos of worship services of local Jehovah's Witnesses.

    In his testimony, Shevchenko refers to the results of the "Examination on Cases of Extremism and Terrorism", according to which experts did not reveal signs of extremism and incitement to religious hatred, and on the video recordings of worship there were no statements about the exclusivity of Jehovah's Witnesses in relation to other people and religions.

    Shevchenko also reports that he is not aware of any evidence that Zhukov, Sakada and Maladyka ever encouraged anyone "to refuse to perform civil duties and serve in the army, to disobey the authorities." The witness says that he has no evidence that the defendants called on anyone to alienate personal material goods free of charge in favor of any extremist organization.

    Shevchenko himself considers Jehovah's Witnesses to be Christians and agrees that the religious teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses are not prohibited, and they have a constitutional right to practice their faith.

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    November 23, 2021 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court reviews the evidence. Vladimir Sakada draws the attention of the participants of the trial to the fact that not a single edition of the Bible listed as evidence is on the list of extremist materials. The court also checks whether the believer's computer has the Zoom program installed.

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

    As a new measure of restraint, believers choose a ban on certain actions.

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    March 31, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    A psychologist from a non-governmental non-profit institution of Tatarstan, one of the three experts who conducted a comprehensive psychological, linguistic and religious forensic examination, is being interrogated. The specialists were presented with 4 discs with recordings of divine services and their transcripts.

    According to the expert opinion dated February 15, 2021, the data from the disks indicate that Vladimir Maladyka was an active participant in the services. However, the conclusion does not provide any arguments to support this. When the expert is asked to name the specific actions of the believer on the date of the service, the specialist says that it was based on a "set of materials" and therefore cannot name such facts. The expert considers the prayer that the believer said at the end of one of the meetings to be the main evidence of "guilt".

    Defendant Vladimir Sakada draws the court's attention to the fact that "the video recordings of the services made by the operational officer were subsequently subjected to unauthorized changes and after that were provided to the experts and the court." He requested that the video recordings be verified.

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    August 4, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court attaches to the case file additions from the defense: a video recording of the search in the liturgical building and the planting of literature.

    The defense asks the court to appoint an examination to establish whether changes have been made to the video recording of the services. The judge refuses.

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    September 8, 2022 Prosecutor requested punishment

    The prosecutor requests 7.5 years in prison for the defendants with an additional ban on participation in public associations for a period of 8 years.

    The lawyer gives the court arguments proving that the actions of believers lack not only the composition, but also the event of the crime itself.

    The preliminary date for announcing the verdict is October 3, 2022.

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    September 27, 2022 Final statement

    All believers deliver the last word. The announcement of the verdict is scheduled for October 3.

    Vladimir Sakada emphasizes: "My secular and religious life does not harm other people, the state and the environment, but only serves as a good example for others."

    Evgeny Zhukov says: "For me, it doesn't matter what kind of character, height, weight, skin color and eye shape a person has. I try to look at people as Jehovah God sees them."

    Vladimir Maladyka is perplexed: "The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation did not ban the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, which means it did not forbid me and my friends to discuss biblical issues. And no legal entity is required for such conversations."

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    October 7, 2022
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    August 28, 2023 Court of Appeal Deprivation of liberty Art. 282.2 (1)

    An appeal hearing is underway in the Sevastopol City Court in the case of Yevgeny Zhukov, Vladimir Sakada and Vladimir Maladyka. Everyone is allowed into the courtroom - about 40 people.

    The Judicial Collegium, chaired by Gennady Nikitin, listens carefully to the participants in the trial.

    At the request of the defense counsel, the court attaches to the case file the full transcripts of the interrogations of the religious scholar and psychologist, since they are presented selectively in the case file. The Collegium refuses to listen to the full audio recording of their interrogation, but asks the lawyer to voice in his speech important points that are not in the official text.

    Another lawyer draws the court's attention to the absence of extremism in the motives of the defendants: "In exercising their right to freedom of religion, they were guided in their actions by love and care for their neighbors, which the court of first instance overlooked."

    The defendants attended the hearing via video conferencing. During the break, they were able to see friends gathered in the hall.

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    October 11, 2023 Court of Appeal Art. 282.2 (1)
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    November 15, 2023 Transfer of a prisoner

    It becomes known that Vladimir Sakada, Vladimir Maladyka and Yevgeniy Zhukov were taken to places of serving their sentences.

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    December 23, 2023 Life in prison Transfer of a prisoner

    It becomes known that Yevgeny Zhukov is in a penal colony in Yaroslavl. He will be quarantined until December 27.

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    January 24, 2024 Life in prison Transfer of a prisoner

    Vladimir Sakada arrives at penal colony No. 5 in the Kaluga region.

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    February 1, 2024 Life in prison Letters

    Vladimir is kept in a barracks for 50 people. The room is warm. The believer does exercises every morning. He has normal relations with the administration and cellmates. Maladyka works in the industrial zone - prepares metal products for painting.

    Vladimir has not yet seen his wife. But he finds support in the letters he receives regularly, as well as reading the Bible.

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    March 3, 2024 Letters Life in prison

    The colony in which Yevgeny Zhukov is being held is in good condition. It is warm and tidy. Eugene himself contributes a lot to this - he sets an example of cleanliness and accuracy to others. He has good relations with both the administration of the colony and the prisoners. Yevgeniy works in the construction team, and also studies at vocational schools, mastering firefighting.

    A believer in a colony has a Bible. The letters have not been received since December 2023 for technical reasons, but Yevgeniy still has old letters and is rereading them. He also reads books from the colony's library.

    In his free time, Evgeniy likes to look out the window and watch the snowfall. He lived in the Crimea for a long time, and now he likes snow and coniferous trees. He tries to see the beautiful in everything.

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    May 30, 2024 Life in prison Letters

    Vladimir Sakada is being held in a barracks for 80 people. He can visit the bathhouse and wash his clothes.

    The believer's relations with the administration and other prisoners are conflict-free. The food is good.

    Vladimir has a Bible from the colony's library. He is also given about 10 letters a month, and the believer is grateful for his support and encouragement. All this helps him not to lose heart.

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    June 27, 2024 Life in prison Letters

    Volodymyr Maladyka tries to maintain a positive attitude. Letters of support help him distract himself from sad thoughts and feel peace and warmth.

    The water in the colony is of poor quality and has a persistent swamp smell. According to the believer, it is impossible not only to drink it, but even to brush your teeth and wash your hands. Vladimir is especially grateful for the parcels from his wife and friends, as the quality of food in the colony leaves much to be desired.