Обзор событий

Arrests of believers all over Russia


On April 10, 2018, Anatoliy Vilitkevich was arrested during a search of his apartment in Ufa. The Supreme Court of the Republic of Bashkortostan upheld the decision of the lower court on his detention. At the same time, searches were carried out in 7 more dwellings of Ufa residents.

Alyona Vilitkevich recalls: "At 6:40 in the morning, the doorbell rang. We were still asleep. Tolya opens the door and I see that people enter the corridor, two in masks with machine guns, and then 8 people entered.

Elena Kozhevnikova: "When my husband asked through the door: "Who is there?", They said: "You are pouring us." He said, "Actually, we live on the ground floor." They said: "The Investigative Committee. Open it." There was a very loud knock, I had to open it. Then they put a machine gun right in his forehead. They pushed them back and started shouting: "Where is the family?! Where is your family?!"

Alfiya Ilyasova: "I was at home with the children. My daughter is seventeen years old and my son is eight years old."

Venera Mikhailova: "The children were all shocked, everyone was raised."

Oksana Lapina: "And my grandson, who is 4 years old, got scared, began to cry a lot."

Olesya Yakimova: "I actually woke up from the fact that my mother was screaming that the police. She didn't know what to do. For us, this is, of course, a non-standard situation, stress. A huge crowd of people on two defenseless women."

During the searches, all electronic devices, telephones, and personal records were seized from believers, including teenagers and children.

Oksana Lapina: "They confiscated two Bibles of the Synodal translation, my personal notes. My daughter's 9th grade book was confiscated. Apparently, they thought that the anthology was somehow connected with Christ.

Immediately after the searches, all believers, including those with small children, were taken to the Investigative Committee for interrogation.

Olesya Yakimova: "When we were brought to the Investigative Committee, having climbed to the 2nd floor, my mother immediately became ill and fainted."

Elena Kozhevnikova: "I ran up to my sister, she was already lying on the floor, on the dirty floor. We were shouting, 'Help, somebody!'

Olesya Yakimova: "That is, my mother was practically dying in my arms. Her breathing stopped, she screamed in pain, her chest was bursting, her pulse was not beating. And just a crowd of people, men who surrounded me, looked at it all as if it was really some kind of farce and circus.

Elena Kozhevnikova: "They stepped over her hands, which fell like this all the time, they went to the smoking room over us while we were lying on the floor. At some point, it seemed to me that she was already dying, because she turned blue and said: "I see the light"... Then the ambulance arrived. She was taken away. Her daughter was released with her, but I was not."

Olesya Yakimova: "That is, I actually almost lost my mother that day."

As a result, Olesya's mother spent almost two weeks in the hospital. Even after a while, those who survived these raids can barely find the words to describe their feelings.

Venera Mikhailova: "I've never seen people attacked like that. It was very painful, as if a huge tank had been driven through the chest.

Olesya Yakimova: "And they talked like criminals."

Suzanne and Artur Ilyasov: "We didn't do anything wrong, but they came at us with machine guns, and as if we were some kind of criminals. That was very frustrating."

Elena Kozhevnikova: "My husband said that he had never experienced such humiliation in his 50 years of life."

Unfortunately, such humiliation of civilians has become the norm in modern Russia.

Operational video footage published by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation shows armed law enforcement officers breaking down the door of believers and shouting: "Police! On the floor! On the floor! Hands on the back of my head!"

Over the past two months, dozens of searches have been conducted in more than 10 regions of Russia. Hundreds of law enforcement officers are involved. At time of writing, 12 believers are in custody.

Alyona Vilitkevich: "Of course I miss it, maybe I've already realized a little bit of what happened, that while he will be there. But now, I just miss it, it's not enough. Because always, every day together, together, but not here."

Anatoliy Vilitkevich from Ufa remains in custody by a court decision. Relatives and friends of Anatoliy very much hope that despite the threats of law enforcement officers, the outcome of this criminal case is still not predetermined.

Alyona Vilitkevich: "An investigator came in, I asked him: "Excuse me, but can I ask if I can take the SIM card?" He says very rudely and angrily: "No! You can buy new phones, a new tablet and look for a new husband!'"

Alfiya Ilyasova: "One of the detectives said that you will have a suspended sentence, and Anatoly Vilitkevich will have a real term. It turns out that they have already passed a sentence on us in advance.

Mass searches and arrests of believers were a direct consequence of the decision of the Supreme Court to liquidate and ban the activities of all legal entities of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Yaroslav Sivulsky of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses says: "During the hearing of the case in the Supreme Court, representatives of the Ministry of Justice repeatedly argued that the court's decision would not affect ordinary believers in any way. It will apply only to legal entities, but what do we see in fact? Article 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which guarantees freedom of conscience and religion, is being violated, and the norms of international law are being violated."

Jehovah's Witnesses filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights. It will be considered as a matter of priority. In the meantime, Alena Vilitkevich reads touching letters from her husband again and again and hopes that soon he will be free. "Alenchik, I love you," Anatoly writes to her from custody, "Apparently, we won't be able to see each other yet. But don't give up and hold on. I will also try. Please call my mom, she needs your help now. You're strong with me. I've always known that. If you can, say hello from me to your everyone and everyone I know. I love you."