Vladimir Yermolaev, Aleksandr Putintsev, Igor Mamalimov and Sergey Kirilyuk at the courthouse

Unjust Verdicts

A Chita Court Sentenced Three Jehovah's Witnesses to Sentences Ranging From Six to Six-and-a-Half Years in Prison; Another Received a Suspended Sentence for Believing in God

Trans-Baikal Territory

On June 6, 2022, Marina Kuklina, judge of the Central District Court of Chita, sentenced Vladimir Ermolaev and Aleksandr Putintsev to 6.5 years, and Igor Mamalimov to 6 years in prison, they were taken into custody. Serhiy Kirilyuk received a 6-year suspended sentence.

For Mamalimov and Kirilyuk, the prosecutor requested 6 years of suspended sentence, for Vladimir Ermolaev and Aleksandr Putintsev—7 years of real imprisonment, although there are no victims and evidence of crimes against the state and the individual in the case. Believers resolutely deny the guilt of extremism, the verdict has not entered into force and can be appealed.

The criminal case was initiated on January 20, 2020. Six months earlier, the Chita believers noticed that they were being followed, and while relaxing by the river, they discovered tracking devices and hidden audio recordings. On February 10, 2020, FSB officers conducted 50 searches in Chita and other settlements in Transbaikalia. The security forces invaded the homes of the elderly, the disabled, large families and other believers. The search in the house of Sergey Kirilyuk took place in front of his wife, who has a group II disability, and a minor child. During the raid, Vadim Kutsenko was strangled and tortured with a stun gun. He, as well as Vladimir Ermolaev, was detained and placed in a temporary detention facility.

In total, 8 believers were suspected of organizing extremist activities, but in January 2021, charges were dropped against Vadim Kutsenko, Aleksey Loskutov, Georgiy Senotrusov and Pavel Mamalimov due to the lack of corpus delicti. The Investigative Committee for the Trans-Baikal Territory investigated the case against Ermolaev, Kirilyuk, Putintsev and Igor Mamalimov for 1 year and 1 month. Then it was taken to court.

All four defendants were included in the list of extremists of Rosfinmonitoring, their bank accounts were blocked. This had a particularly negative impact on the family of Igor Mamalimov, the father of three young children, who is the only breadwinner despite poor health. His wife, Nataliya, does not work due to childcare. Addressing the court, the believer said : “In my heart there is no resentment against anyone who accuses me, and even in my thoughts I do not hold malice against them. Deep down, I don't feel any hatred."

Vladimir Ermolaev spent 3 days in a temporary detention center and 50 days under house arrest, after which the investigator took a written undertaking not to leave him. Sergey Kirilyuk spent 5 days in a temporary detention center and was also released on bail. As a result, all four believers remained under house arrest for about 2.5 years.

Speaking in court, Sergey Kirilyuk said that thanks to his faith, he changed his way of life: “It was the love of God that prompted me [to start] showing love and care for my wife and children.” Vladimir Ermolaev emphasized in his last plea: “Even if I am convicted, I will not stop believing in Jehovah God.” Aleksandr Putintsev takes the same position: “I am not a fanatic, I am a living person, and I have serious health problems. But it is more important for me to remain faithful to God—this is the meaning of my life.”

This is the first conviction under Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation against Jehovah's Witnesses in the Trans-Baikal Territory.

At the PACE winter session held in Strasbourg in January 2022, the Plenipotentiary of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe touched upon the topic of the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. Referring to the accusation of believers of extremism, she noted: “I think it is clear that this accusation is absurd, but the fact is that several hundred Jehovah’s Witnesses have been arrested and imprisoned simply for practicing their faith.”

Case of Ermolaev and Others in Chita

Case History
Vladimir Ermolaev, Aleksandr Putintsev, Sergey Kirilyuk and Igor Mamalimov faced prosecution for their faith in 2020, when security forces carried out 50 searches in Chita and other cities in Transbaikalia. During the raid, several believers were detained and two were tortured. Mamalimov, Kirilyuk and Ermolaev were placed in a temporary detention facility, where they spent several days. At some point, four more believers were suspects in the case, but their criminal prosecution was discontinued. For holding peaceful religious services, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation accused Ermolaev, Putintsev, Mamalimov and Kirilyuk of organizing the activity of an extremist organization. Despite the fact that there were no victims in the case and there was no evidence of crimes against the state and the individual, in 2022 the court sentenced Vladimir Ermolaev, Aleksandr Putintsev and Igor Mamalimov to imprisonment in a penal colony for 6 to 6.5 years, and Sergey Kirilyuk - to 6 years suspended. The court of appeal upheld this verdict. The courts of appeal and cassation did not change this verdict.
Timeline

Persons in case

Criminal case

Region:
Trans-Baikal Territory
Locality:
Chita
Suspected of:
According to the investigation, he "took active organizational actions ... expressed in the organization of meetings, the organization of religious speeches and worship ... fundraising under the guise of donations... involvement of new participants... by carrying out the preaching work."
Court case number:
12002760023000001
Initiated:
January 20, 2020
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Investigating:
Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Trans-Baikal Territory
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-10/2022
Court of First Instance:
Центральный районный суд г. Читы
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Марина Куклина
[i18n] Гособвинитель:
Ковыльченко Д. Г.
Case History