Case of Olshevskiy and others in Blagoveshchensk

Case History

In July 2018, searches were carried out at 7 addresses in Blagoveshchensk as part of a criminal case against local believers. A little over a year later, Obukhov, an investigator of the FSB Directorate for the Amur Region, opened a criminal case against Anton Olshevskiy and Sergey Yermilov on suspicion of participating in extremist activities. In September 2020, Adam Svarichevsky, Sergey Afanasyev and Sergey Kardakov also became defendants in this case (his house was searched). In March 2021, the charges against believers were changed: all five were accused of organizing the activities of an extremist organization, and Afanasyev was also accused of financing it. In September 2021, the case of the believers went to court. A year and two months later, the court found the believers guilty of extremism and sentenced Afanasiyev to 6.5 years, Kardakov to 6 years and 4 months, and Yermilov, Olshevsky and Svarichevsky to 6 years and 3 months in prison. The appeal and cassation upheld the verdict.

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    From August 2017 to July 2018

    According to investigators, Yermilov, together with Olshevsky, "anticipating the onset of socially dangerous consequences ... took a direct part in religious events."

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    July 17, 2018

    The judge of the Blagoveshchensk City Court of the Amur Region, Oleg Filatov, issues search orders at three addresses: Sergey Afanasyev, Anton Olshevsky and Adam Svarichevsky.

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    July 20, 2018

    Searches are being conducted in the homes of believers. As a result, Galina Svarichevskaya is experiencing severe stress. She was hospitalized for a month, then for a long time she was forced to take medication.

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    September 19, 2019

    Investigator V. S. Obukhov makes a decision on the separation of materials into separate proceedings on the grounds of a crime under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation from the materials of criminal case No. 11807100001000051 (against Alexei Berchuk and Dmitry Golik).

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    October 21, 2019

    V. S. Obukhov, investigator of the FSB of Russia for the Amur Region, initiates a criminal case under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation against Anton Olshevsky and Sergey Ermilov. According to investigators, Yermilov, together with Olshevsky, "anticipating the onset of socially dangerous consequences, ... took a direct part in religious events."

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    October 22, 2019

    Anton Olshevsky signed a recognizance not to leave.

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    October 24, 2019

    Investigator Obukhov is prosecuting Sergey Yermilov as a defendant under Article 282.2 (2) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. He signed a recognizance not to leave.

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    October 25, 2019
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    October 28, 2019

    Investigator Obukhov is prosecuting Anton Olshevskiy as a defendant under Article 282.2 (2) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. He signed a recognizance not to leave.

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    November 6, 2019

    Sberbank is blocking Yermilov's accounts, citing the law on countering the "financing of terrorism."

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    27 and 29 May 2020

    Yermilov and Olshevsky submit petitions to the investigator to terminate the criminal case in connection with the opinion of the UN Working Group on the case of 18 believers in Russia.

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    June 4 and 11, 2020

    The investigator refuses to satisfy the petitions of Yermilov and Olshevsky.

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    September 10, 2020

    V. S. Obukhov, an investigator of the investigation department of the FSB of Russia for the Amur Region, charges 57-year-old local resident Adam Svarichevsky with committing a crime under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. According to investigators, the accused, together with Olshevsky and Yermilov, took an active part in the religious activities of the banned organization. The believer does not admit guilt. With regard to Svarichevskiy, a preventive measure is chosen in the form of a written undertaking not to leave and proper behavior.

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    September 15, 2020

    The Blagoveshchensk City Court authorizes a search in the home of Sergey Kardakov.

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    September 18, 2020

    Investigator V. S. Obukhov is prosecuting 56-year-old Sergey Afanasyev as a defendant in committing a crime under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. A peaceful believer, the father of a minor child, is accused of "anticipating the onset of socially dangerous consequences in the form of violation of rights and freedoms ... Person... depending on his religious affiliation... and wishing the onset of these socially dangerous consequences, acting from extremist motives,... He was directly involved in... religious events."

    Afanasyev is chosen a measure of restraint in the form of a written undertaking not to leave and proper behavior.

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    September 24, 2020

    Investigator Obukhov searches the apartment of 36-year-old Sergey Kardakov in the presence of witnesses: a soldier and two FSB operatives, Nikolai Korendov and Mikhail Panchuk. 2 mobile phones, a hard drive and a flash drive were seized from the believer and his wife. Obukhov issues a decision to bring Sergey Kardakov as a defendant in committing a crime under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. (According to investigators, a peaceful believer, reading the Bible and praying to Jehovah, "undermines the foundations of the constitutional order and the security of the state ... acting out of extremist motives.") With regard to Sergey Kardakov, a preventive measure was chosen in the form of a recognizance not to leave and proper behavior.

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    March 12, 2021

    Investigator V. S. Obukhov charges Olshevsky, Kardakov, Afanasyev and Yermilov under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (organization of extremist organization activities). Sergey Afanasyev is also charged under Part 3 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (financing the activities of an extremist organization).

    According to the investigation, Olshevsky "committed deliberate actions of an organizational nature. [...] I was looking for a place for religious events, renting a hall in a café ... and together with Sergey Kardakov ... and Alexei Berchuk held a religious meeting." In addition, the believer is charged with coordinating and carrying out preaching activities.

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    September 14, 2021

    The case against 5 believers in Blagoveshchensk is submitted to the Blagoveshchensk City Court of the Amur Region.

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    October 21, 2021 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The first court hearing is held. The judge rejects the request for an open hearing, as well as the defendants' request to refuse lawyers.

    The prosecutor reads out the indictment.

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    November 18, 2021 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The defendants speak with an attitude to the prosecution.

    Sergey Afanasyev says that "all his life he encouraged his children and acquaintances to be decent people, to help their neighbors and respect authority: at school, at work, in the family, in the state."

    Sergey Yermilov expresses bewilderment that he "is accused of absolutely legal actions on the territory of the Russian Federation to worship Jehovah God, the Father of Jesus Christ, the very God to whom Christians around the world and in Russia turn in the Our Father prayer."

    Sergey Kardakov talks about how faith influenced him. He explains, "I've been studying the Bible since I was 10 years old. The advice and principles contained in it have helped me grow up to be an honest, conscientious, law-abiding citizen. I regularly pay taxes, earn a living by honest work, and my conscience does not allow me to appropriate other people's things. I respect the Constitution of the Russian Federation, our government, because according to the Bible, 'every person must obey the highest authorities, because all authority is from God.'"

    Anton Olshevskiy, in his attitude to the charge, characterizes it as "unclear, vague, arbitrary and based on religious discrimination." He says: "For most of my life, I hold views that are incompatible with extremism. I am accused without facts and proof of my guilt, in fact, only because I am one of Jehovah's Witnesses."

    Adam Svarichevsky notes: "The preliminary investigation authorities did not pay attention to the fact that the right to have religious beliefs, as well as to share them with other people, is not a criminal offense."

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    January 10, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The case materials are being examined.

    One of the appointed lawyers speaks on behalf of all the lawyers that they have never seen such restrained, joyful and polite defendants.

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    May 12, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The materials of the 19th volume of the case are being examined. Anton Olshevskiy's lawyer is changing.

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    May 20, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The study of the written materials of the case, consisting of 38 volumes, is coming to an end. From the next hearing, the court proceeds to the interrogation of witnesses.

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    May 27, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court proceeds to examine the video recordings of worship services contained in the case file.

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    June 23, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    At the meeting, a recording of a Bible-based talk on how to prioritize and balance work is listened to. The court is also examining the recording of a friendly meeting in a café. The judge insists on a partial wiretapping - in her opinion, much is not relevant to the case.

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    July 15, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The study of materials continues. The defense asks to announce the motion to terminate the case against Anton Olshevsky, Sergey Ermilov and Sergey Afanasyev, which was announced during the preliminary investigation.

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    November 16, 2022 Prosecutor requested punishment

    The prosecutor is requesting punishment for five believers: Sergey Afanasiyev — 7 years and 6 months in a penal colony, Sergey Kardakov — 6 years and 10 months, Anton Olshevskiy and Sergey Yermilov — 6 years and 6 months each, Adam Svarichevskiy — 6 years and 4 months.

    The speech of the defense in the debate begins. It will continue at the next meeting.

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    November 24, 2022 Final statement Closing arguments for the defense

    "The accusations are unfounded and have no noble goals, they are nothing more than discrimination against Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia," Anton Olshevskiy speaks before the court in the debate. After that, Sergey Yermilov and Sergey Afanasyev address the court with their last word.

    "I have strived and will continue to strive to fulfill the command recorded in God's Word: 'Do not repay evil for evil to anyone,'" Yermilov said. Afanasyev notes: "The more than 100-year history of Jehovah's Witnesses has proved the non-extremist nature of the views of the followers of this religion."

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    December 21, 2022 Final statement First Instance Sentence

    The defendants Olshevsky, Svarichevsky and Kardakov, speaking with the last word, do not admit their guilt in extremism. They emphasize that they will not give up their Christian beliefs.

    The court sentences believers to imprisonment in colonies for terms ranging from 6 years and 3 months to 6.5 years.

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    December 22, 2022 Detention center

    It becomes known that after the announcement of the guilty verdict, the believers were placed in pre-trial detention center No. 1 in Blagoveshchensk. They can write letters.

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    December 26 — 27, 2022

    Lawyers visit five believers in the Blagoveshchensk pre-trial detention center, who were placed in custody after the conviction.

    Sergey Yermilov does not complain about his health, the conditions of detention, according to him, are tolerable. The administration and prisoners treat the believer with respect. Sergey reports that "the letters are difficult", the Bible was taken away for verification, but he has a pocket format of the New Testament and Psalms. The believer says that it is still difficult for him to get used to the new realities of life. He longs for his son and wife, who is also accused under an extremist article. Sometimes on a walk, Sergey hears his co-religionist Adam Svarichevskiy, who is in the same pre-trial detention center, singing, and this supports his spirit.

    Anton Olshevsky is kept in a clean cell. He is respected by others. The prisoners are surprised that he was imprisoned for believing in God. The believer has a disease - coxarthrosis at the initial stage, but he has not yet received the necessary medicines, since his health documents and prescription were lost in the pre-trial detention center. In his spare time, Olszewski draws pictures with pencils, which he took with him. He receives letters of support, they help him not to lose heart. The Bible is still being checked by the censor. Anton worries that he cannot be near his young son, and also worries about his wife, who is under criminal prosecution, and his father-in-law, who also received a sentence for his faith in this criminal case.

    Adam Svarichevsky, Sergey Afanasyev and Sergey Kardakov are in a good emotional state, but they are worried about their wives. They do not complain about their health, they have the necessary medicines. Prisoners say that they have already been transferred from quarantine to ordinary cells. Svarichevsky has one cellmate. Afanasyev and Kardakov are held in cells, where there are 6 other people besides them. Relations with prisoners are normal. Svarichevsky has a Bible. Afanasyev and Kardakov say that when they were admitted to the pre-trial detention center, their books were taken away, so they wrote an application to the library of the pre-trial detention center with a request to give them Bibles. Prisoners receive letters of support from relatives and fellow believers.

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    May 11, 2023
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    June 10, 2023 Transfer of a prisoner

    Anton Olshevskiy is taken to pre-trial detention center No. 1 in Barnaul.

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    July 3, 2023 Transfer of a prisoner Life in prison

    Sergey Kardakov and Sergey Afanasyev are transferred more than 1000 km from their place of residence - to correctional colony No. 14 in Amursk (Khabarovsk Territory) to serve their sentences. They can write letters.

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    July 11, 2023 Life in prison Transfer of a prisoner

    It turns out that Sergey Yermilov arrived at correctional colony No. 13 in the Sverdlovsk region. This is a general regime colony for former law enforcement and administrative officers.

    The wife of Anton Olshevsky reports that the believer was taken to correctional colony No. 5 in the Altai Territory, where Alexander Putintsev is already serving his sentence.

    They can write letters.

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    September 13, 2023 Life in prison Transfer of a prisoner

    Adam Svarichevsky has been in IK-31 in Primorsky Krai for some time. He can receive letters of support.

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    September 25, 2023 Life in prison Letters

    The transfer of Sergey Yermilov to a colony in Nizhny Tagil - 6,000 km from home - took more than a month.

    The believer took a course on working on a woodworking machine, after which he continued to master this craft in production. He works 6 days a week, making cabinet furniture. Sergey says: "With work, time flies faster, and with it the deadline."

    In the mornings, Yermilov does exercises, after which he reads the Bible. He receives a lot of letters, so he sets aside time every evening to read them and write answers. Once, noticing so many letters, one of the prisoners exclaimed: "Here is real support!"

    The believer worries about his wife Valentina, against whom a criminal case has also been opened for her faith. She is under recognizance not to leave. This and the long distance make it difficult to visit the spouse.

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    September 26, 2023 Art. 282.2 (1) Art. 282.3 (1) Court of Cassation
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    October 18, 2023 Life in prison Strict conditions of detention

    Galina, the wife of Adam Svarichevskiy, who is being held in IK-31, reports that for a long time she has not had contact with her husband - letters from him do not come, calls and appointments are not provided. So, the last long meeting with the believer's family took place on August 1. The required visits in October were canceled.

    It turns out that Adam was placed first in a punishment cell, then in the SUS (strict conditions of detention), and then for 2 months - from October 5 to December 5 - in the PKT (cell-type room where the prisoner is alone). One of the reasons for the penalties was that the believer did not put on a jacket and lay down on the floor (due to back problems, Adam cannot stand for a long time).

    Despite the strict conditions of detention, Adam's emotional state is generally good. He has a Bible, he receives many letters from fellow believers. He does not particularly complain about his health, but says that heart-strengthening drugs are required, which he cannot yet transfer.

    Galina painfully experiences separation from her husband, with whom they have been married for 37 years and have never parted for so long.

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    December 5, 2023 Life in prison Strict conditions of detention Penalty

    Anton Olshevskiy receives a number of penalties. Because of this, he, like Adam Svarichevskiy, is imprisoned in the FCT. He was also put on preventive registration as a "person prone to extremism."

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    December 30, 2023 Life in prison Penalty Strict conditions of detention

    Adam Svarichevski is being held in strict conditions of serving his sentence (SWON). For a long time, the believer was not given winter clothes, because of the cold in the cell, his chronic illness worsened. Adam is not allowed calls, he receives letters with a delay.

    To the delight of the believer, he recently had a long visit with his wife and sons. Relatives, with the permission of the administration, were able to give him some medicines and vitamins. The believer's condition is satisfactory and he has the opportunity to shop in the colony's shop.

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    March 14, 2024 Life in prison

    Sergey Ermilov still works in the furniture shop, often seven days a week. Thanks to his hard work, Sergey was included in the list of leaders. His state of health is satisfactory. The conclusion is not easy for him, but he is supported by reading the Bible and letters from relatives and fellow believers. Yermilov's relations with the colony staff and other prisoners are respectful.

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    April 5, 2024 Life in prison Strict conditions of detention Prosecution of several family members

    Anton Olshevskiy is in strict conditions of detention (SUS). Prior to that, he spent six months in a chamber-type room (PCT). The believer is allowed to call his relatives 6 times a month, receive parcels 1 time in 4 months, from time to time there is an opportunity to see his wife Ekaterina on dates.

    Olszewski is respected by others. He is not allowed to work and study, so he tries to be busy, for example, by answering numerous letters of support.

    The believer periodically experiences pain in the joints, but he is helped by physical exercises, vitamins and medicines that his wife has passed on. Olszewski misses his wife and son and, in order to participate in his upbringing, regularly sends home letters with drawings.

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    April 12, 2024 Life in prison Strict conditions of detention Punishment cell Believers with a disability Medical treatment within the Federal Penitentiary Service

    On visits with his family, Adam Svarichevsky is given the necessary medicines for the treatment of diseases of the cardiovascular system. He has a group III disability. Letters from relatives arrive several weeks late.

    Adam still spends most of his time in isolation. He is systematically placed in a punishment cell, although he is already in strict conditions of detention. The reason for this is the violations of the internal regime staged by the colony staff.