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"After a Heart Attack, I Was Put Into a Cage in Handcuffs." The Story of the Persecution for Faith of Olga Opaleva and Her Son in Primorye

Primorye Territory

Olga Opaleva, a 69-year-old pensioner from Primorye, has been prosecuted for her faith in Jehovah for the third year. The security forces searched and detained the believer, knowing that she had a heart attack the night before. A few months later, on the way to the hearing, Olga suffered a stroke. In another city, Olga's son, Vitaliy Ilinykh, is on trial for his convictions.

The criminal case against Olga was initiated on November 12, 2018. A few days later her house was searched. Recalling those events, Olga says: “They took a grinder and sawed the door for me. They asked me: ‘Why didn’t you open it?’ I couldn’t answer, because I had a heart attack right the night before”. Despite this, law enforcement officers forcibly took the elderly woman for questioning to the investigator. Olga Opaleva spent the next two days in a temporary detention center. The believer says: “After a heart attack, of course, I felt very bad. They put handcuffs on me, brought me to court, put me in a cage." The judge put the elderly woman under house arrest.

A few months later, Olga Opaleva suffered a stroke when a Federal Correctional Service vehicle came for her to take her to the hearing. As a result, an ambulance took her to the intensive care unit of a local hospital. The believer's lawyer Aleksey Izbrekht says: "According to the documents, she was admitted to a medical institution in a serious condition." Vitaliy, Olga's son, recalls: “When I saw her in this state, to say simply that I was worried is, in principle, to say nothing. When our eyes met, the first thing she did was smile, she burst into tears. "

Just a few days later, Vitaliy Ilinykh himself was detained because of his faith in Jehovah God. Now both mother and son are involved in criminal cases. Vitaliy explains: “With the criminal prosecution of my mother, the litigation began, which now affected me. As the investigator told me, if you remain Jehovah's Witness, in fact, if you have not renounced your religion, then you are an extremist. When I tried to explain what is the difference between a faith and a legal entity, the investigator simply refused to listen and said: “I don't care. I do my job, I am told what to do and I do it. " The court chose a preventive measure against Vitaliy in the form of a recognizance not to leave the place.

Olga Opaleva's lawyer notes: “She is accused of talking to people on biblical topics. And such talk about the Bible is imputed by the investigation as recruitment. The prosecution itself does not deny the fact that no damage, no real damage from Opaleva's actions arose.” He adds: “To suspect such people in actions of an extremist nature is, of course, an absurd accusation.”

Olga and Vitaliy assure that the persecution did not deprive them of their peaceful convictions and did not shake their faith in God. Vitaliy is sure: “It's better with God in prison than without God at liberty.”

Case of Malevaniy and Others in Spassk-Dalny

Case History
In the fall of 2018, searches were carried out in Spassk-Dalny at the homes of Dmitry Malevany, Alexei Trofimov, Olga Panyuta, Olga Opaleva and their fellow believers. The reason for the persecution of civilians was their faith in Jehovah God. The believers were accused of organizing the activities of an extremist organization and involving others in it. The case is based on the testimony of secret witnesses “Sidorova” and “Ivanova”, who monitored the believers on instructions from the FSB. On the eve of the search, Olga Opaleva suffered a heart attack, and later, on the way to court, a stroke. The four believers spent a year under house arrest, and since November 2019 they have been under a recognizance agreement. In December 2019, the case went to court. In February 2023, the believers were sentenced: Dmitry Malevanoy was given 7 years in a penal colony, Alexey Trofimov  6.5 years in prison, Olga Panyuta - 4.5 years in prison, and Olga Opaleva - 5 years suspended. The appeal reduced each of these terms by two months, the cassation supported this decision.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Primorye Territory
Suspected of:
according to the investigation, together with others he conducted religious services, which is interpreted as organising 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:
November 12, 2018
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigative Department of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Primorskiy Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1), 282.2 (1.1)
Court case number:
1-4/2023 (1-4/2022; 1-7/2021; 1-70/2020; 1-570/2019)
Court of First Instance:
Спасский районный суд Приморского края
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Павел Бобрович
Case History