Alexandr Litvinyuk and Alexandr Dubovenko near the court building

Unjust Verdicts

In Armyansk Two Believers Were Sentenced to Six Years in Prison. The Court Considered Reading and Discussing the Bible Extremism


On December 1, 2022, Tatyana Fedeneva, judge of the Armyansk City Court of the Republic of Crimea, found Aleksandr Litvinyuk and Aleksandr Dubovenko guilty of extremism and sentenced them to 6 years in a penal colony— exactly what the prosecutor requested for them. The believers were taken into custody in the courtroom.

Aleksandr Litvinyuk, 62, is a pensioner, he worked for many years at state enterprises and factories and raised three children. Aleksandr Dubovenko, 49, worked for a long time as a welder, then as an electrician. In August 2021, searches were carried out in their homes. The men were detained and kept under house arrest for more than a year.

The investigation was conducted by Vitaly Vlasov, an FSB investigator, for 7 months, after which the case was submitted to the Armyansk City Court of the Republic of Crimea. The court hearings lasted six months. At one of the hearings, a witness, a seriously ill elderly woman, refuted the testimony recorded on her behalf by the investigator, and also said that she did not know the defendant Dubovenko and did not attend meetings for worship with him.

Giving his final statement in court, Aleksandr Dubovenko emphasized: "All our activity, mistakenly interpreted as criminal, was in fact nothing more than us exercising our constitutional right to freedom of conscience and religion." Aleksandr Litvinyuk noted in his final statement: “We would never be Jehovah's Witnesses if we incited hatred and religious intolerance or undermined the constitutional order, as is recorded in our criminal case. The same criminal case states that there were no victims.”

Alexandr Dubovenko in the courtroom
Alexandr Dubovenko in the courtroom

The verdict has not entered into force and can be appealed. Believers insist on their complete innocence. In addition to Dubovenko and Litvinyuk, 17 other Crimeans are being prosecuted for their peaceful religious beliefs. Four believers from Crimea are serving sentences for their faith in colonies, and in early October, a court in Sevastopol sent three more to jail.

In a ruling dated July 7, 2022, the European Court of Human Rights criticized the actions of the Russian authorities against believers and stated that “criminal prosecution and criminal liability for the peaceful practice of the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses, together with others, was based on an unacceptably broad formulation and arbitrary application anti-extremism legislation” (§272).

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.

Persons in case

Criminal case

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:
August 2, 2021
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
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:
Армянский городской суд Республика Крым
Татьяна Феденева
Case History