Dmytro Tishchenko, Serhiy Korolchuk and Anton Chermnykh outside the courthouse. November 2022
In Primorye, the court refused to acquit three Jehovah's Witnesses from Ussuriysk. The sentence to 6 years conditionally entered into forcePrimorye Territory
On May 18, 2023, the Primorsky Regional Court refused to grant the appeal of Sergey Korolchuk, Anton Chermnykh and Dmitry Tishchenko against a guilty verdict that imposed a six-year suspended sentence. The decision has entered into force, but the believers have the right to appeal it in the cassation court.
The court considered the following to be evidence of extremist activity: the defendants continued to “follow the teachings” of Jehovah’s Witnesses by participating in worship services, “listening to sermons," and “performing religious songs.” As noted in the appeal, these actions are not prohibited by the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation as socially dangerous acts but are guaranteed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation as fundamental human rights and freedoms.
A friendly meeting of fellow believers in a cafe was construed by law enforcement officers as “actions to organize the recruitment of new members, intended to continue the illegal activities of a banned religious organization.” In 2019, a criminal case was initiated against Korolchuk, Chermnykh and Tishchenko, and searches were conducted. Later, all three defendants signed a recognizance agreement, which lasted almost three years. Rosfinmonitoring blocked their bank accounts.
On November 30, 2022, Judge Dmitry Babushkin of the Ussuriysk District Court of the Primorsky Territory sentenced Sergey Korolchuk, Anton Chermnykh, and Dmitriy Tishchenko to a six-year suspended sentence with a four-year probationary period and one year of restriction of freedom.
In their submission to the appellate court, the believers stated that as a result of a miscarriage of justice, they were convicted merely for peacefully professing beliefs based on the Bible. They confirmed their intention to defend their innocence. Dmitriy Tishchenko observed: “Neither the investigator nor the public prosecutor said what harm or damage I caused to the State or which of my words or deeds incited hatred between people. Not a single person has ever come to court to claim that they have been harmed by my actions.” Sergey Korolchuk explained: “The only motive for all my actions was love for God and neighbor. This has nothing to do with extremism, which I am being accused of.” Anton Chermnykh emphasized: “There is no need for permission to believe in God in Russia!”
In Primorye, 57 of Jehovah's Witnesses have been prosecuted for their faith, twenty five of which have already been sentenced to various punishments, and 16 are defending their right to worship in court. Fourteen believers are serving suspended sentences.
The court in the city of Ussuriysk ignored the clarification of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, which emphasized that the liquidation of legal entities of Jehovah's Witnesses does not impose a ban on their worship.