Unjust Verdicts

Boris Simonenko, 68, Was Given Two Years and Seven Months in Prison for Believing in Jehovah. The Court Considered That His Term Had Already Been Served

Vladimir Region

On July 28, 2023, Dmitriy Kirillov, judge of the Kovrov City Court of the Vladimir Region, sentenced Boris Simonenko to 2 years and 7 months imprisonment. The period of his stay in a pre-trial detention center and of other preventive measures are counted toward this term. The believer remains at liberty, but a number of restrictions will apply to him during the next year.

The criminal prosecution of Simonenko, the first of three Jehovah's Witnesses in the city of Kovrov whom the FSB suspected of extremism, began in February 2021. Boris's house was searched. He was accused of organizing the activity of a liquidated religious association. This is how the investigation interpreted him giving Bible talks.

The elderly man was sent to a detention center, where he spent almost 5 months, 4 of which — in the "press cell" (a room where other people are planted specifically to put pressure on the arrested person) with two former police majors. One of them is Vasiliy Voskoboynikov, convicted of organizing torture in a detention center. Boris recalls: “They forbade me to lie down, sit, including at the table during meals, doused me with cold water at night, preventing me from sleeping, scattered my things and food, defaced my dishes and screamed constantly.” According to the believer, during this period he was greatly supported by letters from relatives and fellow believers from all over the world. In July 2021, Simonenko was placed under house arrest, and six months later, the preventive measure was changed to a ban on certain actions.

The prosecutor requested the court to imprison Boris Simonenko in a penal colony for 6 years. The charge against the believer was based on secret recordings of telephone conversations between him and his wife, as well as screenshots from a computer screen showing believers communicating with each other via video link. During the hearings, two fellow believers of Boris Simonenko — Aleksey Kupriyanov and Roman Adestov — were interrogated. Kupriyanov's case is being heard in the same court. In June 2023, Vasiliy Safronov, judge of that court, sentenced Adestov to a year in a penal colony.

In his final statement, Boris said: “[During the unfair criminal prosecution] my wife and I appreciated the support of loyal friends and God even more; we realized how happy we are. We don't feel like victims. On the contrary, my faith and the faith of my family have been strengthened.” He also shared, “The amazing endurance of our brothers and sisters greatly strengthens me. Especially the example of Valentina Baranovskaya, an elderly [woman] who withstood all [persecution] and emerged victorious. I realized that I'm also bound to endure.”

It is noteworthy that in June 2022, the European Court of Human Rights declared the liquidation of legal entities of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia and the ban on their activities unlawful, and ruled to stop the criminal prosecution of believers and that those in prison be released.

Case of Simonenko in Kovrov

Case History
In February 2021, the homes of residents in Kovrov were searched. Boris Simonenko, a retired miner, was detained. A criminal case was initiated against him for his faith in God. During interrogations, FSB officers from Vladimir and Kovrov presented screenshots taken in the summer of 2020, which showed believers communicating with each other via video link. Also, the charges were based on transcripts of Simonenko’s telephone conversations, in which the Bible was mentioned. The believer spent 145 days in a detention center and 219 days under house arrest, after which he was placed under a ban on certain actions. In September 2022, the criminal case went to court. The prosecutor requested 6 years in a penal colony for the believer. In July 2023, the court sentenced Simonenko to 2 years and 7 months imprisonment with additional restrictions for 1 year. The period of stay in a detention center, house arrest and a ban on certain actions was counted toward this term.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Vladimir Region
Suspected of:
According to the investigation, he "organized collective meetings, as well as religious speeches, divine services and sermons at them ... He spoke independently at these meetings.
Court case number:
February 18, 2021
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigation Department of the Federal Security Service of Russia in the Vladimir Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-19/2023 (1-417/2022)
Court of First Instance:
Ковровский городской суд Владимирской области
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Дмитрий Кириллов
Case History