Andrey Shchepin, Alexander Shamov and Evgeny Udintsev before the verdict announcement

Unjust Verdicts

In Kirov, Andrey Shchepin, Aleksandr Shamov and Yevgeniy Udintsev Got Big Fines for Their Faith

Kirov Region

On July 19, 2021, the judge of the Leninskiy District Court of Kirov, Sergey Shvaytser, sentenced 30-year-old Andrey Shchepin to a fine of 500,000 rubles, 60-year-old Aleksandr Shamov - 420,000 rubles, and 72-year-old Yevgeniy Udintsev - 200,000 rubles.

The guilt of the convicts lies in the fact that they did not stop believing in Jehovah and talking about the Bible, which the court considered the organization of an extremist community. Initially, the believers were also accused of financing the extremist community, but later the prosecutor dropped this charge. Believers insist on their complete innocence. The verdict has not entered into force and can be appealed in the appellate court.

On the morning of March 26, 2019, a series of searches took place in the homes of Kirov residents. On the same day, the Directorate of the Investigative Committee for the Kirov Region opened a criminal case against the three men. The investigation lasted just over 9 months. The investigation relied on the testimony of the witness Potekhin, an employee of the Center for Combating Extremism (CPE). Later it turned out that about half of his testimony, recorded in the protocol by the investigator, coincided with the article on Jehovah's Witnesses from Wikipedia, along with typos and errors in it. As it turned out, the special services also sent an agent named Plastin to the believers, who, pretending to be interested in the Bible, secretly recorded conversations with the accused and worship services. Later, already at the stage of the court hearings, which lasted 1 year and 3 months, a secret witness was questioned, claiming that he was Jehovah's Witness. At the same time, he referred to publications that believers have not used for a long time. Two other prosecution witnesses stated that their testimony was completed by the investigator. There was not a single victim in the case.

Despite the inconsistencies in the case, the state prosecutor Kolosova asked for severe punishment for the defendants: Shchepin and Shamov – to 4 and 2 years in a general regime colony, respectively, and Udintsev – to a fine of 600 000 rubles.

It is paradoxical that Andrey Shchepin, whom the investigation accused of inciting religious hatred, calls for violence and disobedience to the authorities, at one time, out of peaceful convictions, achieved alternative civilian service instead of serving in the army, which he served for 21 months. At the same time, he had the opportunity to get a military ID if he agreed to participate in military training for just a month. The case materials contain positive characteristics of a young believer from a gymnasium, from a place of alternative civilian service, from work and from an elder at home. In them, Andrey is called a non-conflict and non-aggressive person, always ready to help.

During the criminal prosecution, the rights and freedoms of believers were limited. After being detained, Andrey Shchepin spent two days in a temporary detention facility, after which he was banned from certain actions for 2 years and 4 months, and later under recognizance not to leave. All of this made it difficult for Andrey to help his wife take care of a mother who needed special care due to her disability.

Aleksandr Shamov himself is on a disability pension, recovering from a heart attack and heart surgery.

Evgeniy Udintsev's health also leaves much to be desired: in June 2020, he was forced to leave the meeting due to poor health. Despite the fact that Udintsev is at risk due to age, prosecutor Kolosova, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, insisted on continuing the meetings in person. The believer was under recognizance not to leave until the verdict was pronounced.

Earlier in the Kirov region, another Jehovah's Witness, Anatoly Tokarev , was fined 500,000 rubles. Now the case of seven more Kirov believers is pending in court (one of them, Yuriy Geraskov, died under investigation).

In July 2020, at a meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), 30 member States criticized the repression of Jehovah's Witnesses by the Russian authorities. Their joint statement reads: "All people, including Jehovah's Witnesses, must be able to peacefully exercise their rights, including the right to freedom of religion, peaceful assembly and expression without discrimination, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation and Russia's OSCE commitments and international law."

Case of Shchepin and Others in Kirov

Case History
In 2019, the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Kirov Region opened a criminal case for their faith against Alexander Shamov, Andrey Shchepin and Yevgeny Udintsev. The investigation interpreted joint worship services as organizing the activities of an extremist organization. The accusation was based on recordings of meetings of believers made by the FSB agent “Plastin”, who portrayed an interest in the Bible. Shchepin spent 2 days in the temporary detention center and more than 2 years under the ban on certain actions. Later, he, as well as Udintsev and Shamov, took a written undertaking not to leave. In June 2020, the case went to court. The prosecutor asked to appoint Shchepin and Shamov from 2 to 4 years in prison, and Udintsev - a large fine. In July 2021, the court imposed a monetary penalty on all three in the amount of 200,000 to 500,000 rubles. The appellate court, and then the cassation, upheld the verdict against the peaceful believers.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Kirov Region
Suspected of:
according to the investigation, together with others he conducted religious services, which is interpreted as organising and participating in the activity of an extremist organisation (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:
March 26, 2019
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)
Court case number:
1-11/2021 (1-372/2020)
Ленинский районный суд г. Кирова
Сергей Швайцер
Case History