Photo: Larisa Artamonova

Unjust Verdicts

The verdict has been announced for the 66th Jehovah's Witness. In Birobidzhan, a court sentenced Larisa Artamonova to a fine for her belief in God

Jewish Autonomous Area

On February 12, 2021, Judge Vladimir Mikhalev of the Birobidzhan District Court found Larisa Artamonova guilty under Part 2, Article 282.2 of the RF Criminal Code (participation in extremist activities). With reference to Article 64 of the Criminal Code, the court sentenced her to a fine of 10,000 rubles ($135) with payment in installments for 4 months.

In the Jewish Autonomous Region, there have already been several convictions of peaceful believers who exercised their constitutional right to freedom of religion. Among them are Yevgeny Golik, Anastasia Sycheva and Artur Lokhvitsky, Igor Tsarev. Larisa Artamonova became the 14th woman in modern Russia to be punished under a criminal article for her profession of faith in Jehovah. The total number of those convicted throughout Russia is 64. (14 women and 51 men; the youngest was 23, the oldest 74).

In early childhood, Larisa Artamonova received psychological trauma because of the murder of her father. Later, she had to raise her son, who suffers from a rare disease, alone, as well as overcome her own health problems. The criminal prosecution of Larisa Artamonova began sometime after the infamous FSB special operation codenamed "Judgment Day," involving 150 law enforcement officers.

Larisa, as a person who believes in God and has the right to freedom of religion guaranteed to her by the Russian Constitution, met with co-religionists to pray and discuss the Bible. The investigation calls such meetings "active participation in an illegal religious event for the purpose of spreading the doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses.

The case against Larisa Artamonova was initiated on September 25, 2019. Due to her recognizance not to leave, she was restricted in the right to move freely for almost 1.5 years. The investigation was conducted by the SO of the FSB of Russia in the Jewish Autonomous Region. Cases against at least 12 believers, including Larisa Artamonova, were handled by the same investigator, D. Yankin. The investigation lasted about 5 months. On March 3, 2020, the case was submitted to the Birobidzhan District Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region. The court hearings lasted almost a year. On April 13, 2020, the preliminary hearing in the case of Larisa Artamonova was postponed, and on May 7, 2020, the court proceedings were suspended for 5 months and resumed on October 22, 2020. Larisa Artamonova's criminal case was heard by the same judge who hears cases against Elena Reino-Chernyshova and Yulia Kaganovich. In the Birobidzhan District Court, 14 criminal cases against believers are at various stages of consideration.

Russian and foreign figures and organizations unanimously condemn the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. They include the Russian Human Rights Ombudsman, the Presidential Human Rights Council, the Russian President, prominent Russian public figures, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Russian government has repeatedly stated that decisions of Russian courts to liquidate and ban Jehovah's Witnesses organizations "do not assess the doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses and do not contain restrictions or bans on individual practice of the aforementioned doctrine.

Case of Artamonova in Birobidzhan

Case History
In the life of Larisa Artamonova, a native of Birobidzhan, there were many difficulties: children’s psychological trauma due to the violent death of her father, the child’s illness, her own health problems. In September 2019, she faced reprisals because of her belief in Jehovah God — investigator D. Yankin opened a criminal case against Larisa under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. He believed that the woman had worked with others to spread the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The case in the Birobidzhan District Court was considered by Vladimir Mikhalev. He sentenced Artamonova to a fine of 10,000 rubles. Deputy Prosecutor A. Vyalkov filed an appeal with the court with a request to toughen the sentence and send the believer to a colony for 4 years. In February 2021, the Court of the Jewish Autonomous Region, having toughened the sentence, imposed a sentence of 2.5 years probation and 1 year of restriction of freedom. The cassation court upheld this decision. In June 2022, the believer’s punishment was canceled and her conviction was cleared.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Jewish Autonomous Area
Suspected of:
According to the investigation she took part in ”preparation and carrying out the functioning of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ preaching activities and spreading this teaching”
Court case number:
September 25, 2019
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigation Office of Russian Federal Security Office for the Jewish autonomous region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-21/2021 (1-175/2020)
Биробиджанский районный суд ЕАО
Case History