Maksim Zinchenko and his wife Karina near the court before sentencing

Unjust Verdicts

One of Jehovah's Witnesses Maksim Zinchenko Sentenced to 2 Years of Forced Labor in Crimea for Talking About the Bible


According to the decision of the Nakhimovsky District Court of Sevastopol, Maksim Zinchenko was sentenced to two years of forced labor for participating in peaceful meetings for worship. Judge Valeriy Kuznetsov announced this decision on Tuesday, April 16, 2024.

A year earlier, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation initiated a criminal case against Zinchenko. The law enforcement officers searched Maksim's house in Feodosia, then took him to Sevastopol, and after interrogation, he was held in a temporary detention facility for two days. The court later placed him under house arrest for 8 months.

The charge brought against Zinchenko of participating in the activity of an extremist organization was based on hidden recordings of meetings for worship, during which, according to the investigation, the believer "preached" and "actively participated in the study of religious literature." At one of the court hearings, Maksim commented on this as follows: "I see from the facts of the charges, that only the name of my religion and the fact that I am not ashamed to be one of Jehovah's Witnesses constitute a crime and not the presence of extremism [according to the investigation] in my words and actions." He believes that his right to worship God freely has been unlawfully restricted. He has the right to appeal the court's decision.

According to Zinchenko, he and his wife felt supported throughout the proceedings: "Karina and I feel so much love and care of friends from all over the world — video messages and assurances of love from different countries, strong support at the courtroom . . .". He also noted that he appreciates the practical help provided by friends.

In Crimea, 10 Jehovah's Witnesses have already been sentenced: nine men are serving sentences in penal colonies and another received a suspended sentence.

The Case of Zinchenko in Sevastopol

Case History
In May 2023, in Feodosia, officers of the Investigative Committee and the FSB searched the apartment of the Zinchenko couple, who had been under surveillance since 2020. A criminal case was initiated against Maksim Zinchenko. The investigation deemed reading and discussing Bible verses with friends to be participating in the activity of an extremist organization. Two days after the search and interrogation, the believer was placed under house arrest. The charges were based on video recordings of four meetings for worship of Jehovah’s Witnesses made by undercover FSB agents, as well as the testimony of a secret witness. In June 2023, the case went to court. In February 2024, the court found Zinchenko guilty and sentenced him to two years of forced labor.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Suspected of:
"Aware of the public danger and illegality of their actions aimed at undermining the foundations of the constitutional order and security of the state ... acting out of extremist motives... took active steps ... expressed in repeated participation in religious meetings ... preached at meetings... actively participated in the study of religious literature"
Court case number:
May 17, 2023
Current case stage:
verdict did not take effect
Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2)
Court case number:
Court of First Instance:
Нахимовский районный суд города Севастополя
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Валерий Кузнецов
Case History