Olga Zhelavskaya after the announcement of the verdict in front of the building of the Metallurgicheskiy District Court of Chelyabinsk

Unjust Verdicts

Court in Chelyabinsk Gave Olga Zhelavskaya, 61, a 2-Year Suspended Sentence for Reading the Bible

Chelyabinsk Region

On April 14, 2023, the judge of the Metallurgicheskiy District Court of Chelyabinsk, Aleksandr Shatsky, gave Olga Zhelavskaya a 2-year suspended sentence for participating in “joint meetings for worship... singing and praying.” The verdict has not entered into force and can be appealed. The believer insists on her complete innocence.

Olga Zhelavskaya faced persecution for her faith in March 2019, when her apartment was searched as part of a case against Vladimir Suvorov. In August 2021, Alexander Chepenko, investigator of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, who had initiated 10 cases against Jehovah's Witnesses in the region, also initiated a criminal case against Zhelavskaya. The accusation was based on the testimony of an infiltrated agent, Ruzaeva, who, on the instructions of the Center for Combating Extremism, pretended to be interested in the Bible and made audio and video recordings of religious meetings.

The investigation lasted a little over a year. It negatively affected Olga’s health and her life in general—during the criminal prosecution, the believer suffered a stroke, she was fired from her job and her bank cards were blocked. According to Zhelavskaya, she was greatly supported by fellow believers: “They immediately came to my aid, brought food and money, and strengthened me.”

In August 2022, the case went to court. In her final statement, the believer pointed out that the accusation against her was unproven and unjustified: “The interrogation of both witnesses showed that neither during a friendly meeting with fellow believers, nor at any other time, did I make calls to overthrow the political system, break up families or any other extremist statements. No quotes, no facts, no records, no victims”.

To date, 12 Jehovah's Witnesses have been prosecuted in the Chelyabinsk Region, 8 of them have been given suspended sentences and fined for their faith in God.

In June 2022, the European Court of Human Rights concluded that regarding the activity of Jehovah's Witnesses, Russia has shown “indications of a policy of intolerance... designed to cause Jehovah’s Witnesses to abandon their faith and prevent others from joining it” (§ 254).

The case of Zhelavskaya in Chelyabinsk

Case History
Olga Zhelavskaya from Chelyabinsk faced persecution for her faith in March 2019, when her apartment was searched as part of the case against Vladimir Suvorov. Two years later, investigator Aleksandr Chepenko opened a criminal case against the believer based on the testimony of the infiltrated agent Ruzayeva. Zhelavskaya was accused of participating in the activities of an extremist organization. The unlawful actions, according to the investigation, consisted in the fact that the woman invited guests to her place, prayed and sang songs with her friends. While under investigation, in the fall of 2021, the believer suffered COVID-19 and a stroke. In August 2022, her case went to court. In April 2023, the believer was given a 2-year suspended sentence. An appeal in June 2023 upheld the verdict.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Chelyabinsk Region
Suspected of:
"acted out of religious motives" and participated in "collective worship consisting in successive performances of songs ... and prayers to Jehovah God, study and discussion of articles and religious texts" (from the decision to initiate criminal proceedings).
Court case number:
August 31, 2021
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Third Department for the Investigation of Particularly Important Cases of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Chelyabinsk Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-27/2023 (1-528/2022)
Court of First Instance:
Металлургический районный суд г. Челябинска
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Александр Шатский
Case History