In the photo from left to right, from top to bottom: Kulakov spouses, Evgeny Elin, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Alexander Kozlitin

Unjust Verdicts

A Sakhalin Appeals Court Upheld the Verdict Against Five Believers

Sakhalin Region

The Court of Appeal on Sakhalin upheld the verdict against five believers On May 11, 2022, the Sakhalin Regional Court dismissed the appeal of Yevgeny Yelin, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Aleksandr Kozlitin and Sergey Kulakov and his wife Tatyana. The verdict has entered into force.

The court of first instance found five believers guilty of extremism. Sergey Kulakov and Yevgeny Yelin, who were accused of organizing the activities of an extremist organization, were sentenced to 6.5 years of suspended imprisonment. The court sentenced Tatyana Kulakova, Vyacheslav Ivanov and Aleksander Kozlitin to 2 years suspended sentence for participation in the activities of an extremist organization. Believers received such a punishment for reading and discussing the Bible together with fellow believers.

For all the defendants, this criminal prosecution was a test of strength. Sergey Kulakov, 60, and his wife have physical limitations — Tatyana, 48, is visually impaired, and Sergey cannot walk without a cane. The head of the family was included in the Rosfinmonitoring list. Bank accounts were also blocked at 51-year-old Vyacheslav Ivanov and 46-year-old Aleksandr Kozlitin.

The verdict has entered into force. Believers still insist on their innocence. They have the right to appeal the verdict in cassation.

The persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia continues despite the clarification of the Plenum of the Russian Supreme Court that liturgical meetings and conversations about the Bible cannot in themselves be considered extremism. Chairman of the Supreme Court Vyacheslav Lebedev additionally emphacized on February 9, 2022: “Actions that do not contain signs of extremism and consist solely in exercising the right to freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, including through the performance of religious rites and ceremonies, do not constitute a crime.”

Case of Kulakovs and Others in Nevelsk

Case History
In January 2019, at least 11 searches were carried out at the homes of local Jehovah’s Witnesses in three Sakhalin settlements. The criminal case  against the couple Sergey and Tatyana Kulakov, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Yevgeniy Yelin and Alexandr Kozlitin for their faith, was investigated by the FSB in the Sakhalin Region. In January 2021, the trial began in court, and a year later a verdict was issued: Sergey Kulakov and Yevgeniy Yelin were given a 6.5 year suspended sentence, and Tatyana Kulakova, Vyacheslav Ivanov and Alexandr Kozlitin were given a 2 year suspended sentence. The appellate and cassation courts upheld the verdict.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Sakhalin Region
Suspected of:
According to the investigation, he "led a religious group consisting of Nevelsk residents professing the faith of Jehovah's Witnesses, provided material and other support for the activities of the group, convened corresponding meetings and worship, ensured the performance of religious rites and ceremonies, provided religious teaching and education"
Court case number:
December 24, 2018
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigative Department of the Directorate of the FSB of Russia for the Sakhalin Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2), 282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-2/2022 (1-36/2021; 1-150/2020)
Невельский городской суд Сахалинской области
Никита Кучеров
Case History