Unjust Verdicts

In Ussuriysk Three Jehovah's Witnesses Were Given 6 Years of Suspended Sentence for Discussing the Bible

Primorye Territory

On November 30, 2022, Dmitriy Babushkin, judge of the Ussuriysk District Court of Primorye Territory, found Sergey Korolchuk, Anton Chermnykh and Dmitriy Tishchenko guilty of "continuing the illegal activity of a banned religious organization". That is how the authorities interpret the peaceful conversations of Jehovah's Witnesses about the Bible.

All believers received the same sentence: 6 years' suspended term, 4 years' probation, and 1 year restriction of liberty. The verdict has not yet entered into force and can be appealed.

The Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the city of Ussuriysk considered it a crime that Korolchuk, Chermnykh and Tishchenko gathered with friends in a café where they “listened to talks”, “answered questions” and “sang religious songs”. On June 18, 2019, Investigator E. Marvaniuk opened a criminal case under Part 1 of Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. On the same day, the homes of two believers were searched.

Sergey Korolchuk was taken to the Investigative Committee, seemingly to receive copies of the search protocol, but in the end, he was detained and placed in detention for 2 days. Later, all three defendants were put under a recognizance agreement, which was in place for almost 3 years. The Federal Financial Monitoring Service of the Russian Federation blocked their bank accounts.

On August 11, 2020, the case was received by the Ussuriysk District Court. The key witness for the prosecution was K. Rusakov, an FSB officer. During 2017–18, he tracked the believers and arranged for their telephone conversations to be wiretapped. However, in court he could not answer most of the questions, as he “does not remember much”. Another witness was unable to confirm that she was interrogated in May 2019, although the documents bear her signature.

The criminal prosecution has become a test for the believers' families. Dmitriy Tishchenko said: “My wife and I began to appreciate the opportunity to be together even more, as we understand that we can lose it at any moment.”

In Primorye, 41 of Jehovah's Witnesses have already been prosecuted for their faith, 19 of them are women, the oldest of whom will soon be 88 years old. Five believers are serving a suspended sentence.

On June 7, 2022, the European Court of Human Rights ruled to end the repression of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia.

Case of Korolchuk in Ussuriysk

Case History
In June 2019 in the city of Ussuriysk, searches were conducted in the homes of peaceful citizens Sergey Korolchuk and Dmitriy Tishchenko. The searches were conducted because of a criminal case under Article 282.2(1) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation initiated by E. Marvanyuk, the investigator of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Primorsky Territory. The third defendant was Anton Chermnykh, the father of a young child. The case was based on the testimony of FSB officer K. Rusakov, who for about a year followed the believers and listened in on Tishchenko’s telephone conversations. In the opinion of the investigation, by meeting friends in a cafe to discuss the Bible, the men committed “a crime against the foundations of the constitutional order and the security of the State.” The believers were under house arrest for almost three years. In September 2020 Judge Dmitry Babushkin began considering the case in the Ussuriysky District Court. The defense emphasized that the key witness gave false testimony, and expert Oleshkevich made a biased and incompetent conclusion. On November 30, 2022, the judge found the believers guilty and gave them six-year suspended prison sentences, and in May 2023 the appellate court upheld this decision.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Primorye Territory
Suspected of:
According to the investigation he “took steps to organize the recruitment of new members aimed at continuing the illegal activities of the banned religious organization ‘Jehovah's Witnesses Administrative Center in Russia’” (with reference to the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation on the liquidation of the religious organization “Jehovah's Witnesses Administrative Center in Russia” and its structural divisions)
Court case number:
June 18, 2019
Current case stage:
The verdict entered into force
Investigation Department for Ussuriysk city of the Investigation Administration of the IC of Russia for Primorye Territory
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-9/2022 (1-57/2021; 1-659/2020)
Уссурийский районный суд Приморского края
Дмитрий Бабушкин
Case History