Sergey Ashikhmin, Aleksandr Kutin and Maksim Derendyaev, their families and friends outside the courthouse, May 2024

Unjust Verdicts

Three Jehovah's Witnesses from Izhevsk Each Received Three Years in a Penal Colony for Their Faith


On May 13, 2024, Marina Khokhryakova, judge of the Pervomayskiy District Court of Izhevsk, found Maksim Derendyaev, Aleksandr Kutin and Sergey Ashikhmin guilty of extremism and sentenced each to 3 years imprisonment in a penal colony (the prosecutor had requested 7 years each). The believers were taken into custody in the courtroom. They intend to appeal the verdict.

As an additional punishment, the court banned each of them from carrying out any activity in public and religious associations for 4 years, and further restricted their freedom for 1 year.

The investigation considered the conversations about God and the Bible to be organizing the activity of an extremist organization, and in the spring of 2021, a criminal case was initiated against Derendyaev, Kutin and Ashikhmin. Mass searches took place in Izhevsk. As a result, Maksim Derendyaev and Aleksandr Kutin ended up in a pre-trial detention center, where one stayed for 3 months, and the other for 15 days. Sergey Ashikhmin was released under a ban on certain actions, taking into account the serious surgery he had undergone.

After 2 years of trial, Maksim Derendyaev, 38, said: "I have not been able to understand which of my actions the prosecution considers a crime. For 4 years, I was secretly taped. This is about 1,000 hours of conversations in a relaxed atmosphere with family members and fellow believers, including everyday topics, and not a single extremist statement!"

Friends help the families of the believers cope with the hardships caused by the unjust criminal prosecution: they support them financially and give them cards and letters with words of love and encouragement. Aleksandr Kutin, 41, said: "When letters from different countries and regions began to arrive, it made a strong impression on one of my neighbors — this is a real brotherhood, and when you get into trouble, they will not abandon you, but they will support and help you." In court, Kutin stated: "The criminal case was initiated and brought to trial with the sole purpose of prohibiting me from practicing my religion, which is not prohibited by law, and from living as is written in the Bible. The investigation is trying to make us out as criminals who broke the law. But we didn't break the law of the land."

Sergey Ashikhmin, 50, emphasized in his final statement: "There have never been any extremist motives in my actions, because love and extremism are incompatible!"

In Udmurtia, criminal cases were initiated against 7 Jehovah's Witnesses for their faith.

The Case of Derendyaev and Others in Izhevsk

Case History
In the spring of 2021, a criminal case was initiated against three believers from Izhevsk for organizing the activity of an extremist organization. The next day, FSB and Investigative Committee officers conducted mass searches in the city and interrogated 14 people. Maksim Derendyaev and Aleksandr Kutin were detained and placed in a pretrial detention center, and Sergey Ashikhmin was banned from certain actions. Kutin was released under house arrest after 15 days, and Derendyaev after 3 months. In February 2022, the case against the three men went to court. It was built, among other things, on the testimony of secret witnesses. In May 2024, the court sentenced the believers to 3 years in a penal colony.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Suspected of:
According to the investigation, the believers coordinated and coordinated actions to organize the preaching work and spread the doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses in Izhevsk
Court case number:
April 13, 2021
Current case stage:
verdict did not take effect
Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Udmurt Republic
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-7/2024 (1-18/2023; 1-233/2022)
Court of First Instance:
Первомайский районный суд г. Ижевска
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Марина Хохрякова
Case History