Photo: Yuriy Savelyev

Inside Penal Colonies and Detention Centers

Believers in pre-trial detention centers receive hundreds of letters of support from all over the world

Novosibirsk Region

By April 15, 2019, Yuriy Savelyev, who had been languishing in jail for his faith for almost six months, had received 715 letters with words of support and small gifts. Australia, Austria, Belarus, Great Britain, Poland, Russia, USA, Ukraine, France are just some of the countries whose residents decided to support the 64-year-old believer from Novosibirsk. Fellow believers and simply caring people write him words of support and encouragement, and some even send small parcels, putting a chocolate bar or a postcard in them.

The neighbors in the cell are surprised by so many letters and do not stop asking Yuri questions. Especially surprising for them is that the letters come from people he does not know. People who visited Yuriy in pre-trial detention center No. 1 in the Novosibirsk region report that the flow of letters was a great encouragement for him and an occasion for interesting conversations. According to him, he is respected by his cellmates for his beliefs and dignified behavior, and they even protected him from unfair treatment.

This situation is also typical for other Russian Jehovah's Witnesses behind bars. They also reported a never-ending stream of letters. Despite the increasing number of criminal cases, the number of believers in pre-trial detention centers has recently been decreasing. At the moment it is 20 people.

Case of Savelyev in Novosibirsk

Case history
Six years in a penal colony—this was the harsh sentence that 66-year-old Yuri Savelyev from the city of Novosibirsk received for his faith. The man was arrested in November 2018 during searches in the homes of believers. He was in pre-trial detention until his sentencing in December 2020. The appellate court, and later the cassation court, upheld the verdict. In May 2021, Yuriy Savelyev was transferred to Penal Colony No. 5 in the city of Rubtsovsk, Altai Territory. In the colony, the administration, with no legitimate basis, tried to force the believer into treatment for alcoholism. On far-fetched grounds, the elderly man spent about nine months in harsh conditions of detention. Yuriy was released in July 2023.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Novosibirsk Region
Suspected of:
according to the investigation he unlawfully organised the activity of the religious organisation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Novosibirsk (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:
November 7, 2018
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigative Department of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Novosibirsk Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
Ленинский районный суд Новосибирска