Kirill and Svetlana Gushchin surrounded by friends. May 2024

Legal Victories

Court in Kabardino-Balkaria Acquitted One of Jehovah's Witnesses Accused of Extremism


On May 2, 2024, Ruslan Atakuyev, judge of the Mayskiy District Court of Kabardino-Balkaria, acquitted Kirill Gushchin, 42, finding him not guilty of extremism. The prosecutor had requested 7 years in a penal colony for the believer.

"I am not guilty," Gushchin said in his final statement. "I'm just making use of the freedom that Article 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation gives . . . Imagine that in Russia the football federations FIFA and UEFA [which are legal entities—Ed.] were declared extremist and banned. Will people stop playing football in Russia? Or will a group of people gathered to play football – adults, children, men, women – also be extremists?"

The prosecution of Kirill Gushchin began in May 2020, when the Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case against him for organizing the activity of an extremist organization. Masked security forces with machine guns detained the believer as he was about to go to work. Among them was FSB officer Sergey Svetikov, who has repeatedly been caught falsifying operational materials. During the search, planted publications, which are on the list of extremist literature, were also found in Gushchin's home.

In April 2021, Kirill was also charged with involving others in the activity of an extremist organization. A new criminal case against Kirill's wife, Svetlana Gushchina, was separated from this case. The charges against both are based on the testimony of secret witness "Filatova", who covertly made audio recordings of peaceful meetings for worship, at which nothing extremist happened.

This is not the first acquittal of Jehovah's Witnesses accused of extremism from Kabardino-Balkaria. Earlier, the court of cassation acquitted Yuriy Zalipayev from Mayskiy, and the Supreme Court of Kabardino-Balkaria overturned the conviction of Arkadya Akopyan from Prokhladniy, terminating the proceedings in his case.

Russian courts also acquitted the Bazhenovs, Ivan Sorokin and Andrey Zhukov, Dmitriy Barmakin, Aleksey Khabarov and three believers from the Sverdlovsk Region, but these decisions were subsequently overturned.

The Case of Gushchin in Mayskiy

Case History
In May 2020, the Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case against Kirill Gushchin, a peaceful family man from the town of Mayskiy, for his faith. Law enforcement officers conducted a series of searches in the homes of believers. In the early morning, they broke into homes, planted banned publications and used force against the believers' family members. About a year later, another case was initiated against Kirill Gushchin, this time for "involving others in the activity of an extremist organization," as the security forces call the conversations of believers about the Bible. Later, the case against Kirill’s wife Svetlana and 4 other peaceful women was made into a separate proceeding from the Gushchin case. In June 2021, Gushchin's case went to court. At the hearings, it became obvious that religious scholar Larisa Astakhova "had substituted objective concepts with her personal opinion" in the expert study on which the case was based. In May 2024, the court acquitted the believer.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Suspected of:
According to the investigation, "he took active actions, expressed in the conduct of divine services, consisting of the sequential performance of songs ... and prayers to Jehovah God."
Court case number:
May 7, 2020
Current case stage:
verdict did not take effect
Maysky Interdistrict Investigation Department of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1), 282.2 (1.1)
Court case number:
1-1/2024 (1-2/2023; 1-7/2022; 1-128/2021)
Майский районный суд Кабардино-Балкарской Республики
Руслан Атакуев
Case History