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Actions of Law Enforcement Officers

A Wave of Searches Took Place in Crimea, New Criminal Cases for Faith Were Initiated

Crimea

On August 5, 2021, in Armyansk — in the north of the Crimean Peninsula — a series of searches of local believers took place. 60-year-old Alexandr Litvinyuk was detained and taken 140 kilometers away from his home, to Simferopol. On August 6, the court chose a measure of restraint for him in the form of house arrest, and at about midnight the believer was taken home.

Three days before the search, Vitaliy Vlasov, senior investigator of the Investigative Department of the FSB of Russia for the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, opened criminal cases under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (organization of extremist activities) against Alexandr Litvinyuk and another local believer — 48-year-old Alexandr Dubovenko. The basis was the reports received from the FSB Border Directorate. Litvinyuk is accused of “using the Zoom video conferencing software” to “attract new members of the [banned] organization”.

On August 6, 2021, the judge of the Kiev District Court of Simferopol, Andrey Dolgopolov, sent Alexandr Litvinyuk under house arrest until October 1, 2021.

Alexandr Dubovenko was staying with relatives in another city, so the search took place in his absence. The believer's wife Irina was at home. At about 6 a.m., she noticed several people in the courtyard. There was a knock on the door, closing the peephole. Irina recently had a coronavirus and still felt weak, but the security forces forced her to open, posing as FSB officers. Investigator Lavrov presented a search warrant issued by the Kiev District Court of Simferopol. Law enforcement officers seized electronic devices, personal records, title documents for the apartment and Alexandr's work papers.

Update. On August 9, when Aleksandr Dubovenko returned from another city, he was detained and taken to Simferopol for investigative actions. At this time, his house was searched again. Electronic devices were again seized. The court chose a measure of restraint for Aleksandr in the form of house arrest. Late in the evening of the same day, the believer was taken home.

The searches were carried out in total in the homes of 8 believers from Armyansk aged 47 to 72 years. The security forces arrived in minibuses and cars without license plates. They tried to get into one of the apartments, calling the representatives of public utilities to block the sewage system. They confiscated electronic devices and personal records from believers, searched for funds, personal notes and notebooks with handwritten text, which contains links to the Bible. The law enforcement officers did not provide copies of the decisions and protocols on the seizure of things.

In addition to believers from Armyansk, already 10 residents of Crimea are being prosecuted for their faith in Jehovah God. Sergey Filatov and Artem Gerasimov are serving real terms in a general regime colony only because of their religion.

Case of Dubovenko and Litvinyuk in Armyansk

Case History
In August 2021, the FSB initiated a criminal case against Crimeans Aleksandr Litvinyuk and Aleksandr Dubovenko, accusing them of organizing the activities of an extremist organization. A few days later, their homes were searched. Litvinyuk was detained and interrogated. Dubovenko, who was absent on the day of the search, was later also detained. His home was searched again. The believers spent more than a year under house arrest. The case went to court in March 2022. It was based on the testimony of a secret witness; the judge refused to declassify the identity of this witness. During the trial, the judge repeatedly denied pensioner Litvinyuk’s requests to visit a doctor; she also denied the request to attach 27 documents as evidence of the defendants’ innocence. In addition, during the questioning of defense witnesses, she interrupted them and expressed her negative attitude towards the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In December 2022, the court sentenced the believers to six years in a penal colony. The appellate court upheld this sentence.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Crimea
Locality:
Armyans'k
Suspected of:
"acting by a group of persons by prior conspiracy ... [conducted] meetings, religious speeches, study of materials, attracted new members of the organization" (from the decision to prosecute)
Court case number:
12107350001000113
Initiated:
August 2, 2021
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Branch of the Federal Security Service of Russia in the Republic of Crimea
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-39/2022
Court:
Армянский городской суд Республика Крым
Judge:
Татьяна Феденева
Case History