Early in the morning of February 15, 2019, mass searches were held in the homes of citizens suspected of practicing the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses in in the city of Surgut and the town of Lyantor (Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area). According to incomplete data, 15 people were detained and taken to the investigating authorities.
It is uncertain whether the arrests are connected to a criminal case in Uray, same region, where a 38-year-old father of two, Andrey Sazonov, was sent to jail. The criminal case against Mr. Sazonov was begun by the Investigative Committee of Russia, contending that his practice of religion as one of Jehovah's Witnesses places him in violation of Part 1 and 2 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (organization and participation in the activities of an extremist organization).
Law enforcement officers repeatedly misconstrue normal worship as participation in the activities of an extremist organization. As these abuses mount, they have been noted and denounced by many observers including prominent public figures in Russia, the Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation, the President of the Russian Federation, as well as international organizations like European External Action Service, observers of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. In actuality, Jehovah's Witnesses have no relation to extremism and insist on their complete innocence. The Russian government has repeatedly stated that the decisions of the Russian courts to liquidate and ban the organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses “set out no assessment of the religious denomination of Jehovah’s Witnesses or limitation or prohibition to individually manifest the aforementioned denominations.”