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How were believers in Russia turned into "extremists"?

It took the Russian authorities 9 years to implement the cunning plan. The chronology of the main stages, as well as the statements of analysts, are given in a 7-minute video.

Video footage of raids on peaceful Jehovah's Witnesses is shocking. How did law-abiding Jehovah's Witnesses become "extremists" in Russia?

December 2009: The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation declared 34 publications of Jehovah's Witnesses "extremist"; LRO of Jehovah's Witnesses "Taganrog" was liquidated

August 2011: a criminal case under the article "extremism" was initiated against 16 Taganrog residents.

April 2013: Searches at the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia

February 2014: the beginning of systematic planting of "extremist" materials to believers, followed by searches.

April 2015: Jehovah's Witnesses are banned from importing Bible publications into Russia; Millions of magazines detained by Russian customs

March 2016: guilty verdict for all 16 Taganrog residents; The sentence is up to 5.5 years in prison conditionally.

July 2016: action of armed special forces against believers in Karelia; pressure on believers in different parts of Russia begins

April 2017: Russian Supreme Court liquidates all 396 Jehovah's Witnesses organizations in Russia citing "extremism"

May 2017: The first believer, Dennis Christensen, was sent to a pre-trial detention center in the city of Oryol.

December 7, 2017: A St. Petersburg court legalized the seizure of real estate that housed the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia; the property is owned by a foreign owner, the Pennsylvania Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.

December 20, 2017: The Leningrad Regional Court declared the Russian translation of the Bible distributed by Jehovah's Witnesses as "extremist material."

April 2018: searches were conducted in Ufa, Anatoliy Vilitkevich was sent to a pre-trial detention center

Alyona Vilitkevich : At 6:40 a.m., the doorbell rang.

Alfiya Ilyasova: I was at home with my children.

Venera Mikhailova: I saw armed men on the street.

Olesya Yakimova: There were riot police vests, masks and machine guns.

Elena Kozhevnikova: There was a very loud knock, I had to open it.

Gulfiya Khafizova: When my husband opened the doors, this young man put a gun to my husband's face.

Venera Mikhailova: A search has begun. They threw everywhere, climbed everywhere.

Gulfiya Khafizova: We were not allowed to communicate with each other, we were not allowed to call anyone.

Olesya Yakimova: When we were brought to the investigative committee, going up to the 2nd floor, my mother immediately became ill, and she fainted.

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

Olesya Yakimova: And just a crowd of people, men who surrounded me, looked at all this, as if it was really some kind of farce and circus.

Elena Kozhevnikova: Then the ambulance came. 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.

Alfiya Ilyasova: I'm not afraid for myself, I'm afraid for my children. And what will they do without me.

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.

Over the following months, dozens of such searches and arrests were carried out in Russia.

Yaroslav Sivulsky from the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses: "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."

Massimo Introvigne, Founding Director of the International Center for the Study of New Religions (Italy): "During the fascist period, Jehovah's Witnesses faced persecution. However, they were not persecuted for extremism, but quite the opposite. They were persecuted for pacifism, for refusing to cooperate with the fascist regime, for not supporting militant speeches and public sentiments. It can be said that they were persecuted for not being extremists. So when I found out that Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia were being persecuted for extremism, it sounded ridiculous to me."

Mikhail Sitnikov, journalist: "It turns out that in my country it is so easy to deal with, I emphasize this word "crack down", with a fairly large number of believers, with their dignity, their religious feelings. If it happened in some movie, yes, probably, it would be great, it would be a godsend - to show how you can mock people.

Alexander Verkhovsky, member of the Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation: "Many of these repressive mechanisms are invented not for any particular group, but for some other threat, not religious, strictly speaking, but rather political. And then they are often used in quite unexpected ways.

Gerhard Bézier, religious scholar: "Therefore, it would be very insidious to transfer the term 'extremism', a political term, to the religious sphere."

Massimo Introvigne: "I have yet to meet a single expert who would not agree that Russia's actions towards Jehovah's Witnesses are illegal, given the international Convention on Human Rights, which Russia is a signatory."

Alexander Verkhovsky: "In fact, with regard to Jehovah's Witnesses, this means that all, well, at least adult Jehovah's Witnesses, can potentially be prosecuted."

Mikhail Sitnikov: "How to understand this? Like, look, you and I, like rabbits, can do anything. And not even just with you. But here he is, a Dane, because of him, a representative officially comes from Denmark, and we sneezed on it. As we did, so we will keep it. Intimidation? Who should be intimidated?"

Alexander Verkhovsky: "There is not a single democratic country where such a mechanism would exist."

Massimo Introvigne: "One of Russia's goals is to give a semblance of legitimacy to the decision to liquidate Jehovah's Witnesses."

Gerhard Bézier: "We must not give up trying to convey to the public what is happening."

As of August 8, 2018, there are 26 believers in the pre-trial detention center.