Photo: Konstantin Bazhenov

Discrimination

Konstantin Bazhenov, Born in Veliky Novgorod, Became the Second of Jehovah's Witnesses Penalized With Annulled Russian Citizenship

Saratov Region,   Ulyanovsk Region

On May 15, 2020, the administration of Colony No. 3 of Dimitrovgrad notified Konstantin Bazhenov, convicted for faith, that his Russian citizenship was annulled. In 2009 Konstantin and his wife moved back from Ukraine to Russia, where they received citizenship. Authorities revoked Bazhenov’s permission to hold Russian citizenship only a few days after the same decision on his fellow believer Felix Makhammadiyev.

Konstantin was born in Veliky Novgorod, as a child he moved to Ukraine with his parents. In 2001, he married Irina from the Donetsk region. In 2009, the couple moved to Russia and received citizenship there.

On September 19, 2019, Konstantin Bazhenov was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison. He was accused in the same criminal case as his five fellow believers from Saratov, including Felix Makhammadiyev, whose permission to grant Russian citizenship was revoked by the authorities just days before the Bazhenov decision.

"The decision to grant citizenship to her husband was revoked on April 20, 2020, but the colony informed him about it only on May 15," said Irina Bazhenova, Konstantin's wife.

According to Yaroslav Sivulsky, a representative of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses, the revocation of citizenship for Bazhenov and Makhammadiyev testifies to the indiscriminate nature of the Russian justice system. "The authorities, formally following the law, apply the same measures to both terrorists and peaceful believers who are imprisoned only for their beliefs, the meaning of which is love for God and people," Sivulsky commented on the situation.

The international community considers the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses unjust and illegal. Russian human rights activists have included Konstantin Bazhenov and Felix Makhammadiyev in the list of prisoners of conscience.

Case of Bazhenov and Others in Saratov

Case history
In September 2019, Judge Dmitry Larin immediately sent 6 Saratov residents to prison for a term of 2 to 3.5 years just for reading the Bible, singing songs and praying. Since 2017, security forces have been conducting covert surveillance of believers. In the summer of 2018, their homes were searched with banned literature planted. While the investigation was underway, they had to go to a pre-trial detention center, under house arrest and under recognizance not to leave. A year later, despite the absence of victims in the case, the believers were found guilty. Upon arrival at the Orenburg colony, 5 out of 6 convicted believers were beaten by the staff of the institution. Mahammadiev was hospitalized, and the rest were placed in a punishment cell for a while. Saratov prisoners of conscience have mastered various professions in prison. In May 2020, Mahammadiev and Bazhenov were stripped of their Russian citizenship and, after their release, deported from Russia. All 6 believers have already served their sentences. In September 2022, the cassation court dismissed the complaint, and the verdict and the appellate ruling were unchanged.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Saratov Region
Locality:
Saratov
Suspected of:
according to the investigation, together with others he conducted religious services, which is interpreted as “organising the activity of an extremist organisation” (with reference to the decision of the Russian Supreme Court on the liquidation of all 396 registered organisations of Jehovah’s Witnesses)
Court case number:
11807630001000037
Initiated:
June 9, 2018
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Investigative Department of the Directorate of the FSB of Russia for the Saratov Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-333/2019
Background