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Human Rights

Vladimir Putin: "Jehovah's Witnesses are also Christians, I also don't really understand why they should be persecuted"


"This is complete nonsense, we must carefully look into it," Vladimir Putin commented on the inclusion of Jehovah's Witnesses in the list of extremist organizations. The corresponding question was asked to him at a meeting of the Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, which was held in Moscow on December 11, 2018. "We have to be much more liberal at some point... Treat all religions equally. [We should not] be enrolled in some kind of destructive, let alone terrorist organizations."

Human rights activist Ekaterina Shulman. Photo source:

Human rights activist Ekaterina Shulman drew attention to the problem. She pointed out that in the official "List of Terrorists and Extremists" the majority are 404 organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses. "They certainly do not call for violence and do not carry it out," the human rights activist said. In response, Vladimir Putin said: "Regarding Jehovah's Witnesses. Perhaps we can, and even should at some point, be much more liberal towards representatives of various religious sects, but we must not forget that our society does not consist exclusively of religious sects. 90 percent of the citizens of the Russian Federation or so consider themselves Orthodox Christians. We have three more religions that are practically traditional and receive help from the state. We should treat the representatives of all religions equally, this is true, but we should still take into account the country and the society in which we live. True, this does not mean at all that we should enroll representatives of religious communities in some kind of destructive, let alone terrorist organizations. Of course, this is complete nonsense, we must carefully look into it, here I agree with you. A little later, the President again returned to the topic of the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses: "Jehovah's Witnesses are also Christians, for which they are persecuted, I also do not really understand."

In international instances, the Russian government has repeatedly stated that the decisions of the Russian courts on the liquidation and prohibition of organizations of Jehovah's Witnesses "do not assess the doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses, do not contain a restriction or prohibition to practice the above teachings individually." Meanwhile, dozens of Russian citizens are currently in prison or under house arrest just because they practice the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses.