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Ruthless Searches and Arrests of Believers in Kirov

Kirov Region

On October 9, 2018, searches were conducted in several homes of Jehovah's Witnesses in Kirov. As a result, 5 people were arrested, including a Polish citizen. Their families tell the details of what happened and how they live now.

Nina Korobeynikova, a resident of Kirov, who has a disability, draws a postcard for her father Vladimir. For two months now, he and four other Jehovah's Witnesses have been in pre-trial detention. "When I was little, my dad was my best friend," says Nina. We played together, talked, went fishing. And all my life I've always lived with my parents, and my dad was always there."

Galina Khalturina, Maksim Khalturin's mother, recalls the details of that October morning when the raids took place. "We were still sleeping, but Maxim was in the kitchen, he had breakfast, he goes to work early.- Then my husband and I woke up, I went out into the corridor and saw a lot of people. Maxim is facing the wall. Legs and arms are wide apart."

And here is what happened in the house of Vladimir Korobeynikov. Says his wife Olga, who, due to illness, practically does not get out of bed: "I tried to wake Volodya up, he quickly got up, approached, he was told: "Open the door, we want to talk to you about God." And he said, "I won't open it for you, and if you don't leave now, I'll just call the police." Well, that's when they say, "We're already here." And they showed their crusts.

"We quickly got dressed, opened the door, and in a second the apartment was filled with men in black," says Svetlana, the wife of Yevgeny Suvorkov, "I was just shocked. They flew into the apartment in an instant." Her relative Svetlana, the wife of Andrey Suvorkov, says: "They behaved busily, they felt like masters in our apartment. This, too, of course, was unpleasant.

Anna, who is married to Polish citizen Andrzej Oniszczuk, shares her feelings: "For me, it was just a humiliation when people come to you and walk through your clean linen with dirty boots. When they start opening things, look in. They also look at us in such a way that we may have something wrong there. Yes, it was a shame, a humiliation, I was embarrassed in front of my neighbors, because they know us ... To be honest, I still try to put everything together in such a way that if they come again, I won't be ashamed."

As a result, 50-year-old Andrzej Oniszczuk, 65-year-old Vladimir Korobeynikov, 25-year-old Andrey Suvorkov, 40-year-old Yevgeny Suvorkov and 44-year-old Maxim Khalturin were sent to a pre-trial detention center. They are accused of organizing and financing extremist activities simply because of their religion.

"The exact time, 8:39, I remembered for the rest of my life," says the mother of Maxim Khalturin.- This is probably a long time I will not forget. At that time, Maksim was taken away from the apartment." "I hoped that he would leave for two hours," admits Olga Korobeynikova.- But by the evening I already realized that he would not return. Not today, most likely, not tomorrow." "When he left, it was like we said goodbye to him for two hours. He himself probably did not expect such a turn, "says the wife of Andrei Suvorkov. "When I began to collect food, the operative advised me to collect things," says Anna Onischuk.- And the investigator said: "He doesn't need to collect anything, maybe I'll let him go today." The implication was that if he cooperated, I might let him go."

Unfortunately, when deciding on the measure of restraint, the court did not take into account the difficult family situations of the accused. In particular, Maxim Khalturin's elderly parents have serious health problems. His father is completely dependent on his son's support and care. "It's very hard for me without him. After all, I take care of my husband alone. And I'm 81 years old," says Galina Khalturina.- My husband lost his speech and the right side. He couldn't talk, so these facial expressions, these tongue twisters, it had a very big effect on him and on his speech. And at least now he speaks a little, slowly. It's all the merit that Maxim helped him a lot."

The situation in the family of Vladimir Korobeynikov is no less difficult. His wife practically does not get up, and his daughter Nina is not able to provide her with the necessary support, since she herself is a disabled person of group I. She says: "Sometimes mom needs immediate medical attention, and usually dad would call an ambulance and accompany her in the car, because only he knows in what position you can put it, how to lift it." Here is how his lawyer, Yegiazar Chernikov, comments on the situation: "The court's decision looks blasphemous from the point of view of human relations, since the court's decision contradicts the basic principles of mercy in the administration of justice. It breaks my heart to see the situation of their families." "When you see a 66-year-old pensioner who has lived a well-deserved life, or a middle-aged man who has sick relatives, of course, it causes only human sympathy," says Yevgeny Kokoulin, deputy chairman of the Vyatka Committee on Human Rights.

Relatives of prisoners share that the incident seriously affected their own physical and emotional state. "I couldn't sleep and eat for the first week at all," says Olga Korobeynikova.- When I just wake up, it's just pain. When no one is at home, no one at all, I allow myself to cry loudly, to pray out loud. Well, that is, this is no longer a prayer, this is a cry, this is a supplication. Andrey Suvorkov's wife Svetlana shares: "I constantly think about Andrey, I constantly think about how he is now, what is happening to him, what he feels. I miss him very much, and I think he misses me too." Maksim Khalturin's mother Galina: "I miss him very much. It's so hard for me without him! I don't know how I can wait for it? Valery Petrovich also misses his son. And when they took him away, he also had tears on his face."

The wives and close relatives of five imprisoned believers try to support each other. They get together, read letters from the pre-trial detention center, discuss the life of prisoners and share the latest news from behind barbed wire.

"I walk around the cell a lot, I can walk six steps, then back. You know, I love walking. I refuse to walk only in severe rain. I really like to walk, there is a larger area, you can walk in circles, and look at the sky through the lattice, breathe fresh air" (from a letter from Yevgeny Suvorkov).

"Today they brought 60 letters, more than a kilogram. Letters, of course, have come before, but so many at once, for the first time" (from a letter from Maxim Khalturin).

"How I miss you! Previously, it was enough for me to be aware that you were in the next room, and I could approach you at any time. And now I just need to get at least some news from you like air!" (from a letter from Vladimir Korobeynikov).

"Life gives each of us black and white sketches, and they are not always beautiful. But we have felt-tip pens of all colors, and it's up to us to decide which ones to use. But how much wiser it is to paint life with bright colored felt-tip pens, then you will find a joyful heart. Look around, what colors the joyful God uses" (from a letter from Andrei Suvorkov).

These women very much hope that law enforcement officers will come to their senses and stop the senseless persecution of their husbands, fathers and sons. Moreover, quite recently, the president of the country promised to look into this issue.

"And it is necessary, of course, to do what you propose - to analyze law enforcement practice. And if necessary, make some adjustments. [...] Jehovah's Witnesses are also Christians, and I also don't really understand why they should be persecuted. Therefore, we just need to analyze, we need to do it. I will talk to Vyacheslav Mikhailovich [Lebedev, Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation], and try to do it" (from the transcript of Vladimir Putin's speech at a meeting of the Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights on December 11, 2018).

"I imagine that we will meet at home," says Nina Korobeynikova.- Mom will be able to get up for a while, all three of us will hug, and we will all cry.

Fortunately, this meeting did not have to wait long. On December 20, the Kirov Regional Court considered the believers' appeal and placed one of them, Vladimir Korobeynikov, under house arrest.

Four more believers from Kirov still remain in the pre-trial detention center.

As of January 1, 2019, 25 Jehovah's Witnesses were detained in Russia.

Case of Oniszczuk and Others in Kirov

Case History
In October 2018, searches of believers were carried out in Kirov. A criminal case under extremist articles was initiated against seven local residents, five of them were taken into custody, including Polish citizen Andrzej Oniszczuk, who had been in captivity for almost a year. His fellow believers spent 3 to 11 months in jail and another 6 to 9 months under house arrest. The men were included in the Rosfinmonitoring list. One of the accused, Yuriy Geraskov, died of a long illness a week before the trial. In January 2021, court hearings began. In June 2022, the believers were given suspended sentences ranging from 2.5 to 6.5 years. Yuriy Geraskov was also found guilty of extremism, but the criminal case was dismissed due to his death. The appellate court upheld the verdict against the believers.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Kirov Region
Suspected of:
according to the investigation, “they organised meetings of followers and participants of the association [Jehovah’s Witnesses] in different flats, performing actions characteristic of this association: singing Bible songs together, improving skills for missionary activity, as well as studying religious literature, the so-called ‘Holy Scriptures’ (Bible), which is on the Federal List of Extremist Materials and contains the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses”.
Court case number:
October 3, 2018
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Kirov Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1), 282.3 (1), 282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-2/2022 (1-5/2021; 1-123/2020)
Court of First Instance:
Первомайский районный суд Кирова
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Тимур Юсупов
Case History