Photo: search of believers (2016)

Actions of Law Enforcement Officers

Saratov: Searches, Planting and Arrest of Three Believers

Saratov Region

On June 12, 2018, in Saratov and the region, law enforcement officers conducted mass searches in the homes of citizens who are suspected of practicing the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. Three people were arrested and sent to a pre-trial detention center: 43-year-old Konstantin Bazhenov, 35-year-old Aleksey Budenchuk and 33-year-old Felix Makhammadiev.

At least 7 searches are known in the city of Saratov and the village of Shiroko (Saratov region). Acting extremely rudely, law enforcement officers broke down apartment doors. So, having come with a search to Konstantin and Irina Bazhenov, the special forces mistakenly cut the door to their neighbors and only then, having figured it out, broke the door to the apartment of the spouses. During the searches, all equipment, books, photographs, notebooks, personal savings, savings books, and foreign passports were seized from citizens.

During at least 2 searches, prohibited items were planted. For example, during a search in the village of Shirokoye, in the house of Aleksey and Tatyana Budenchuk, in the sleeve of a children's jacket hanging on a hanger, the visitors shoved and defiantly "found" two books, one of which is included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials. Aleksey Budenchuk was detained.

More than 10 people were taken to the FSB for interrogation, some were interrogated almost until midnight. In general, during interrogations, believers followed the admonition from the Bible: "I will bridle my mouth until the wicked are before me. I was mute and silent, and silent even about good things" (Bible, Psalms 38:2, 3).

On June 14, 2018, it became clear that Konstantin Bazhenov, Feliks Makhammadiyev, Aleksey Budenchuk were charged under Article 282.2 (1) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation ("organizing the activities of an extremist organization"). Svetlana Gogoleva, judge of the Frunzensky District Court of Saratov, chose a measure of restraint in the form of 2-month detention (until August 12, 2018) for these law-abiding respected citizens.

Such a serious violation of the rights of believers is a direct consequence of a terrible miscarriage of justice - the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation to indiscriminately liquidate and ban all 396 organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. Law enforcement officers, driven by unknown motives, pass off the joint religion of law-abiding citizens for participation in the activities of an extremist organization.

Case of Bazhenov and Others in Saratov

Case History
In September 2019, Judge Dmitry Larin immediately sent 6 Saratov residents to prison for a term of 2 to 3.5 years just for reading the Bible, singing songs and praying. Since 2017, security forces have been conducting covert surveillance of believers. In the summer of 2018, their homes were searched with banned literature planted. While the investigation was underway, they had to go to a pre-trial detention center, under house arrest and under recognizance not to leave. A year later, despite the absence of victims in the case, the believers were found guilty. Upon arrival at the Orenburg colony, 5 out of 6 convicted believers were beaten by the staff of the institution. Mahammadiev was hospitalized, and the rest were placed in a punishment cell for a while. Saratov prisoners of conscience have mastered various professions in prison. In May 2020, Mahammadiev and Bazhenov were stripped of their Russian citizenship and, after their release, deported from Russia. All 6 believers have already served their sentences. In September 2022, the cassation court dismissed the complaint, and the verdict and the appellate ruling were unchanged.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Saratov Region
Suspected of:
according to the investigation, together with others he conducted religious services, which is interpreted as “organising the activity of an extremist organisation” (with reference to the decision of the Russian Supreme Court on the liquidation of all 396 registered organisations of Jehovah’s Witnesses)
Court case number:
June 9, 2018
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Investigative Department of the Directorate of the FSB of Russia for the Saratov Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
Case History