Illustrative photo

Actions of Law Enforcement Officers

In Vladivostok Three Believers Arrested After Searches at Homes of Jehovah's Witnesses

Primorye Territory

*Text updated on March 9, 2023.

On March 5, 2023, security forces raided at least 10 addresses in Vladivostok as part of a criminal case for belief. Yuriy Byche, 37, and Sergey Novoselov, 54, are in pre-trial detention, and Yegor Pogrebnyak, 27, is under house arrest.

According to the Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Primorskiy Territory, the believers “using the ZOOM application... carried out actions aimed at continuing the activity of an extremist organization.” This is how the investigation interprets the conducting of peaceful meetings for worship. A criminal case was initiated under three parts of the extremist article at once — the organizing the activity, participating and involving others in it (parts 1, 1.1 and 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

Officers of the Investigative Committee, together with the FSB Border Control, launched a special operation early in the morning. According to eyewitnesses, the security forces handcuffed Yuriy Byche, threw him to the floor and kicked him several times. The investigator intended to connect to the believers' online call and film their conversation on video. He demanded passwords for phones and other equipment from Yuriy.

In another case, security forces seized electronic devices, postcards, notebooks with personal notes, and other items from believers.

The ECHR judgment of 7 June 2022 states that “the Russian authorities have failed to put forward anyelements which, according to the Court’s case-law, could have warrantedinterference with the applicants’ rights to freedom of religion, expression or association.” (§ 158). This position is shared by the founder and director of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF, Brussels, Belgium) Willy Fautré: “Statistics about the magnitude of the repression are disturbing. Freedom of religion or belief is the cornerstone of all freedoms.”

The case of Byche and Others in Vladivostok

Case History
In Vladivostok, three of Jehovah’s Witnesses were detained and placed in a temporary detention facility for two days after searches in March 2023. Yegor Pogrebnyak was released and put under house arrest, and Yuriy Byche and Sergey Novoselov were sent to a pre-trial detention center. A criminal case has been initiated against the believers under an extremist article. Later, Tatyana Kazakova, Marina Roslova, Alina Tkachenko, Anastasiya Dyldina and Yelena Romanova became defendants in the case. In December, after new searches, Kirill Chekolayev was arrested and placed in a pre-trial detention center. At the end of February 2024, Yuriy Byche and Sergey Novoselov were released from the pre-trial detention center under a prohibition on certain actions.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Primorye Territory
Court case number:
February 26, 2023
Current case stage:
Preliminary investigation
Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Primorsky Territory
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1), 282.2 (2)
Case History