The aggressive opposition of the Russian authorities to Jehovah’s Witnesses has now spilled over into Crimea. In Russia the government has not only banned the Witnesses’ legal entities but has clearly shown its intent to wipe out their peaceful worship. Since the April 2017 ban, Russian authorities have conducted numerous raids on Witness gatherings throughout Russia, resulting in the arrest and imprisonment of scores of Witnesses. The same heavy-handed tactics are now being used against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Crimea.
Raids in Dzhankoy in November 2018
The first mass raid in Crimea took place on November 15, 2018, in Dzhankoy, when approximately 200 police and special forces officers raided eight private homes in which small groups of Witnesses were meeting together to read and discuss the Bible. At least 35 armed and masked officers forcibly entered the home of Sergey Filatov, where a group of six Witnesses were gathered. The Witnesses were terrorized by this aggressive action. The intruders pinned a 78-year-old man against the wall, forced him to the ground, handcuffed him, and beat him so badly that he was rushed to the hospital. Two other older men were so traumatized that they were rushed to the hospital with extremely high blood pressure. Tragically, a young woman whose house was also raided suffered a miscarriage.
Following the raid, Mr. Filatov was criminally charged under Article 282.2(1) of the Russian Criminal Code with organizing the activity of an “extremist organization.” On March 5, 2020, the district court in Crimea sentenced Mr. Filatov to six years in a general regime prison colony. After the sentencing he was immediately escorted to prison. In November 2020, Mr. Filatov’s attorneys submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights on his behalf. Mr. Filatov is a married man with four children, two of whom are minors.
Other Raids of Witness Homes
On March 20, 2019, special forces officers raided eight homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Crimean cities of Alupka and Yalta. During the searches, officers seized Bibles, computers, and electronic devices. Subsequently, Artem Gerasimov was charged with organizing extremist activities merely for meeting with others to discuss the Bible. He was sentenced to six years in prison and is scheduled to be released in June 2026.
On the evening of June 4, 2019, special forces officers raided ten homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Sevastopol. During the raid Viktor Stashevskiy was arrested and later released with orders not to leave the area. Subsequently, Mr. Stashevskiy was charged with organizing extremist activities and was sentenced to six and a half years in prison. He will be released in July 2027.
On October 1, 2020, nine homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses were raided in Sevastopol, Crimea. A case was opened against Igor Shmidt. On October 22, 2021, the Gagarinskiy District Court of Sevastopol convicted Mr. Shmidt and sentenced him to six years in prison.
October 22, 2021
Mr. Shmidt is convicted and sentenced to six years in prison.
October 1, 2020
Nine homes are raided in Sevastopol. Igor Shmidt is arrested and placed in pretrial detention.
June 4, 2020
Supreme Court of the Republic of Crimea sentences Mr. Gerasimov to six years in prison.
March 5, 2020
Mr. Filatov is sentenced to six years in a general regime prison colony.
June 4, 2019
Special forces officers raid ten homes in Sevastopol. Mr. Stashevskiy is subsequently charged with organizing extremist activities.
March 20, 2019
Special forces officers raid eight homes in Alupka and Yalta. Mr. Gerasimov is interrogated and subsequently charged with organizing extremist activities.
November 15, 2018
Eight homes raided by over 200 police and special forces officers in Dzhankoy, including Mr. Filatov’s home.