Photo: Yevgeny Deshko in handcuffs. Smolensk (May 2019)

Actions of Law Enforcement Officers

Fourth believer arrested in Smolensk

Smolensk Region

On May 1, 2019, a court in Smolensk sent 30-year-old Yevgeniy Deshko, who is suspected of practicing the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, to prison for 2 months. The man was arrested on April 29, 2019 in Dagomys (Krasnodar region) and taken to Smolensk.

According to preliminary information, Yevgeny Deshko came to the attention of Smolensk law enforcement officers in the context of the criminal prosecution of Valery Shalev and other followers of the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses in Smolensk, against whom the Investigative Directorate of the FSB of Russia for the Smolensk Region opened a criminal case under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The case became known on April 25, 2019, when searches were carried out in the homes of believers in Smolensk. The next day, the Leninsky District Court of Smolensk sent Ruslan Korolev, Valery Shalev and Viktor Malkov to jail.

This is the second such criminal case in the Smolensk region. On October 7, 2018, officers of the FSB Directorate for the Smolensk Region conducted a series of searches, during which in Sychevka (Smolensk Region) 2 women, Natalia Sorokina and Maria Troshina, were arrested. They spent more than six months behind bars, after which they were transferred to house arrest.

Law enforcers mistakenly mistake citizens' religion for participation in the activities of an extremist organization. Prominent public figures of Russia, the Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation, the President of the Russian Federation, as well as international organizations - the European Union External Action Service, observers of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights - drew attention to this problem. Jehovah's Witnesses have nothing to do with extremism and insist on their complete innocence. 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."

Case of Shalev and Others in Smolensk

Case History
In April 2019, Jehovah’s Witnesses from Smolensk—Ruslan Korolev, Valery Shalev, and Viktor Malkov—were sent to jail. The day before, searches were carried out in their homes. Yevgeny Deshko was detained in Dagomys (Krasnodar Territory) as the fourth suspect in this criminal case. The believers spent 4 to 8 months in jail and another 3 to 7 months under house arrest. Due to the stress and conditions of detention in the pre-trial detention center, Viktor’s heart problems worsened, and he died without waiting for the trial. The criminal case under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation was investigated by the FSB of Russia in the Smolensk Region. In the Industrial District Court of Smolensk, the prosecutor asked Judge Marina Masalskaya to send Shalev and Deshko to jail for 8 years, and Korolev for 9 years for discussing Christian teachings. In April 2021, a judge found them guilty, but sentenced them to suspended imprisonment ranging from 6 to 6.5 years. In August 2021, the Court of Appeal approved the punishment for the believers. The cassation court upheld the decisions of the lower courts.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Smolensk Region
Suspected of:
According to the investigation he “organized and held a joint prayer to ‘Jehovah’, carried out a demonstration of videos ... informing adherents on issues of participation in conventions ... organizing and conducting subsequent joint meetings” (from the indictment)
Court case number:
April 25, 2019
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Investigative Department of the Directorate of the FSB of Russia for the Smolensk Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-2/2021 (1-159/2020)
Промышленный районный суд г. Смоленска
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Марина Масальская
Case History