The defendants convey greetings from the pre-trial detention center to the listeners of the appellate hearing. September 20, 2022

Unjust Verdicts

The Court of Cassation Upheld the Verdict Convicting Four Believers From Chita. Three Will Spend From 6 to 6.5 Years in Penal Colonie

Trans-Baikal Territory

On March 7, 2023, the Eighth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction in Kemerovo confirmed the verdict and the appeal ruling against four Chita residents for their faith, as final. The court hearing was held via videoconferencing.

The court of first instance convicted Vladimir Ermolaev, Aleksandr Putintsev, Igor Mamalimov and Sergey Kirilyuk of extremism for their peaceful religious beliefs on June 6, 2022, and on September 20 of the same year, the court of appeal upheld this decision. All convicts are already detained in penal colonies, except Sergey Kirilyuk, who was given a 6-year suspended sentence.

The lawyers for the convicts and Kirilyuk filed appeals with the Eighth Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction requesting to cancel the verdict of the Central District Court of Chita and the appeal ruling, terminate the criminal proceedings against the believers, and also recognize their right to rehabilitation.

The defense drew attention to the fact that the law enforcement agencies of the Trans-Baikal Territory began to conduct checks on citizens professing the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses, however, “the goal was not to identify truly unlawful actions, but to establish the very fact that believers held joint services within the same religion as the liquidated organizations in order to bring charges on technical grounds".

“For example, after 2017, discussing the Bible with members of your family - is it a crime or a constitutional right?” the lawyers asked the court. “And if you invite a neighbor to discuss the Bible? What if with friends? Is this a right or is it already a continuation of the activity of a banned, liquidated organization?”

The European Court, in its decision, explicitly stated that, “by seeking to suppress the religious activities of Jehovah's Witnesses, as they did, the Russian authorities failed to act in good faith and breached the State's duty of neutrality and impartiality vis-à-vis the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses” (§ 254).

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.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Trans-Baikal Territory
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:
January 20, 2020
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
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:
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