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The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion
The right to join together and express one’s belief

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RUSSIA: Further jail term for answering fellow prisoners' questions about faith?

For the first time, a Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience is on trial in Kostroma for his exercise of freedom of religion or belief while imprisoned. Dmitry Terebilov answered questions about his faith from a fellow prisoner. Officials have not explained why answering questions constitutes involving another person in an "extremist" organisation. The camp administration has recordings of his conversations, but prison officials have not said whether and why they kept him under surveillance. If found guilty, he could receive a further sentence of several years, on top of his present 3-year term.

RUSSIA: Who ordered torture of Jehovah's Witness prisoner of conscience?

Fellow medical facility prisoners tortured prisoner of conscience Rinat Kiramov over four days in April after he refused to give names of fellow Jehovah's Witnesses in his home town. They punched, kicked, waterboarded, threatened with rape, and shocked him with a stun gun. It is unclear how the prisoners had access to a stun gun. Kiramov's lawyer lodged a complaint to the Prosecutor's Office, which passed it to police. Whether police investigators have decided to open a criminal case is unknown. The UN Convention against Torture obliges states to arrest and punish officials who commit, order or allow torture. There is a long-standing pattern of impunity for torturers.

RUSSIA: Church to be demolished as place where crime "repeatedly committed"?

On 18 June, Slavyansk City Court in Krasnodar Region will resume hearing the city administration suit for independent Orthodox Archbishop Viktor Pivovarov to demolish Holy Intercession Tikhonite Church as an "unauthorised structure". The Investigative Department informed the administration he had been charged with "discrediting" the Armed Forces for criticising Russia's war against Ukraine. It said the church was "a public place, with a large number of visitors, where a crime has been repeatedly committed against the basis of the constitutional order and security of the Russian Federation".

RUSSIA: Archbishop fined for criticising Russia's war in Ukraine

A Krasnodar Region court found 87-year-old Archbishop Viktor Pivovarov guilty on 8 April of repeatedly "discrediting" the Russian Armed Forces. The judge fined him 8 months' local average pension. Archbishop Viktor has repeatedly condemned Russia's war against Ukraine as "aggressive" and "Satanic". Many parishioners of Holy Intercession Tikhonite Church in Slavyansk "have been scared away by recent events", says a church member. Archbishop Viktor is the fifth person criminally convicted for criticising Russia's war from a religious perspective. Many more have been punished administratively.

RUSSIA: "Extremism" prosecutions of elderly Jehovah's Witnesses

Courts have convicted 467 Jehovah's Witnesses from 2017 up to 18 March 2024, and ultimately acquitted none. Over a quarter of the Jehovah's Witnesses prosecuted have been aged 60 or older, with 12 individuals aged at least 80. The sentences imposed have ranged from heavy fines to some of the longest prison terms – of 7 years or more – handed down to Jehovah's Witnesses. On 15 March, 72-year-old Sergey Vasilyev became the oldest Jehovah's Witness currently imprisoned for exercising his right to freedom of religion and belief after he was sentenced to 3 years' imprisonment.

RUSSIA: Religious freedom survey, March 2024

Freedom of religion and belief, with interlinked freedoms of expression, association, assembly, and other fundamental freedoms remain seriously restricted in Russia. Forum 18's survey analysis ahead of the forthcoming presidential election documents freedom of religion or belief violations including: "extremism"-related criminal prosecutions and jailings of Jehovah's Witnesses and of Muslims who meet to study the works of Said Nursi; torture, and impunity for torture; prisoners of conscience deprived of Russian citizenship and deported after their sentence; and prosecuting, fining, and jailing Russians who protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine from a religious perspective.

RUSSIA: 42 on Federal Wanted List for exercising freedom of religion or belief

Russia's Interior Ministry Federal Wanted List includes: 3 opponents of Russia's war against Ukraine on religious grounds; 6 Muslim Nursi readers from Russia; 16 Jehovah's Witnesses from Russia, 4 from Russian-occupied Crimea; 3 people wanted by Belarus; 3 wanted by Kazakhstan; 2 wanted by Tajikistan; 5 wanted by Uzbekistan. The Interior Ministry did not respond to Forum 18's question why it includes people who peacefully exercised their right to freedom of religion or belief. Interpol would not say for how many of them Russia had sought Red Notices.

RUSSIA: Another trial of Muslims meeting to study Nursi's works

Seven months after a Moscow court handed prison terms to six Muslims who met to study their faith using the works of Turkish theologian Said Nursi, the same court is hearing the case of two more. 45-year-old Zurab Dzhabrailov and 53-year-old Dzheykhun Rustamov have so far made two court appearances. The two have been held at Butyrka prison since August 2023. Investigative Committee and FSB security service documents seen by Forum 18 reveal the investigation – which has involved covert surveillance - has been ongoing since 2017.

RUSSIA: Criminal case for repeat "discreditation"

Investigators are working on a criminal case against 86-year-old independent Orthodox Archbishop Viktor Pivovarov for repeat "discreditation" of the Armed Forces. If convicted, he could be imprisoned for five years. He condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the conduct of the war as "Satanic". The Federal Investigative Committee and Krasnodar Region branches of the Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service did not answer questions on the case. Armed personnel raided his church in October 2023, torturing a fellow priest. The community is "very intimidated", with parishioners "afraid to attend services".

RUSSIA: "Faith forbids him to take up arms, kill, or take oaths"

Military officials rejected the alternative civilian service applications of four young Baptists in Siberia and the Far East. The four men had all set out their pacifist religious convictions. Brothers Daniil and German Strelkov are preparing to appeal after a court ruled the refusals lawful. Courts twice declined to uphold Zakhar Asmalovsky's lawsuit against the military authorities. Timofey Reznichenko successfully challenged his refusal in court, gaining the right to have his application re-examined. A higher-level Conscription Commission granted a fifth, Sergey Myalik, the right to undertake alternative service.

RUSSIA: Fourth post-prison Jehovah's Witness deportation

Despite living half his life in Russia and marriage to a Russian citizen, 46-year-old Jehovah's Witness Rustam Seidkuliyev was deported to his native Turkmenistan in September after completing his jail term for exercising freedom of religion or belief. Officials did not explain to Forum 18 why his Russian citizenship had been annulled in 2022, given his long residence in Russia, that there were no victims in his criminal case, and that his family had had to leave Turkmenistan because of their exercise of freedom of religion or belief.

RUSSIA: Armed raid on Krasnodar Region church

In early October, 10 unidentified armed men raided a non-Moscow Patriarchate Russian Orthodox Church in the southern Krasnodar Region whose clergy have repeatedly spoken out against Russia's war in Ukraine. A priest was physically tortured, detained, and charged with "disobeying a police officer" and "discrediting the Russian Armed Forces". "At least five searches took place simultaneously", Fr Iona told Forum 18. The Krasnodar Region branches of the Investigative Committee, Federal Security Service (FSB), Interior Ministry, and National Guard failed to respond to Forum 18's questions about the raid.

RUSSIA: Four now jailed for refusing to fight in Ukraine on religious grounds

Military courts have now jailed four men for refusing on religious grounds to go to fight in Ukraine. In Vladivostok, Baptist Vyacheslav Reznichenko entered the prison colony-settlement on 18 September to start his 2 year, 6 month term. In Murmansk, a court handed long-serving contract soldier Maksim Makushin, a Pentecostal Christian, a term of 2 years and 8 months "for refusing to kill Ukrainians". He is awaiting his appeal. Neither courts nor prosecutors answered Forum 18's questions why they were not allowed to do alternative civilian service.

RUSSIA: Second jail term for opposing Russia's war in Ukraine on religious grounds

On 31 August, a St Petersburg court jailed 55-year-old Fr Ioann Kurmoyarov for 3 years and banned him from posting on the internet for 2 years for distributing "false information about the Russian Armed Forces". His is the second known prison term for opposing Russia's war against Ukraine from a religious perspective. In March, a Moscow court jailed Mikhail Simonov for 7 years. Fr Ioann pleaded guilty, telling the court: "I undertake in the future not to touch upon the topic of the conduct of special military operations by our troops."

RUSSIA: Freedom of religion and belief monitoring group to be liquidated

Russia's leading freedom of religion and belief monitoring group ceases to exist as a legal entity. On 17 August, a Moscow Appeal Court rejected SOVA Center for Information and Analysis's appeal against its liquidation. Moscow's Justice Department claimed it committed "gross violations" of the law by holding events outside Moscow. SOVA's director Aleksandr Verkhovsky notes the "obvious and extreme selectivity" of the Justice Department's claims against human rights groups "but not to hundreds of others". The Non-Governmental Organisations Department at Moscow's Justice Department refused comment.

RUSSIA: Pacifist Christian musician fined, banned from internet posting

Musician and teacher Anna Chagina has been handed a fine and a ban on internet posting for opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She stood accused of "discrediting" the Russian armed forces more than once in a year. "I also want to remind you of a simple ethical rule – do to others as you would have them do to you," Chagina said in her final statement. Elsewhere, Mikhail Simonov, the first person to be sentenced to jail for opposing the war from a religious perspective, has lost his appeal against his 7-year jail term.

RUSSIA: Jailed for refusing mobilisation on grounds of conscience

Called up in September 2022, Pentecostal Andrey Kapatsyna refused to fight in Ukraine, telling commanders that "in accordance with his religious beliefs, he could not take up arms and use them against other people". A Vladivostok court sentenced him to 2 years, 10 months' imprisonment under new legislation punishing non-fulfilment of orders in a period of combat operations. A Murmansk Region military court jailed Dmitry Vasilets for 2 years, 2 months for refusing on grounds of his new Buddhist faith to return to Ukraine after five months on the frontlines.

RUSSIA: Long jail terms for Moscow Nursi readers

Arrested in October 2021, six Muslims who met to study the works of Turkish theologian Said Nursi finally went on trial in September 2022. On 27 June 2023, a Moscow court jailed four of the six for 6 years or more, with the others receiving lesser terms. The judge ordered the destruction of books by Nursi taken during the investigation. On 20 June, a Taganrog court jailed Jehovah's Witness Aleksandr Skvortsov for 7 years. All were convicted on "extremism" charges, which all denied.

RUSSIA: Judges "ignore completely" amended Supreme Court guidance on Extremism Law application

Hundreds of Jehovah's Witnesses and dozens of Muslims who read theologian Said Nursi's works have been jailed or given suspended sentences on "extremism" charges. October 2021 Supreme Court revised guidance for extremism trials directed judges to ascertain defendants' "specific actions" and "motivation". Courts have now overturned all eight acquittals resulting from the revised guidance, with one acquitted earlier jailed for 8 years. Early hope has now "completely gone", Jehovah's Witness lawyers say. The defence "of course" refers to the Supreme Court guidance in every case, but "the judges ignore it completely".

RUSSIA: "Would Jesus Christ have gone to kill in Ukraine?"

Eduard Charov criticised Russia's invasion of Ukraine on social media, asking "Would Jesus Christ have gone to kill in Ukraine?". The FSB alerted the Prosecutor's Office. A Sverdlovsk Region court fined him for "discrediting" the Armed Forces and "inciting hatred" towards state authorities. A Moscow court fined Mariya Kunchenko for an Orthodox Easter Sunday protest, while a Kareliya court fined Yekaterina Kukharskaya for putting up stickers bearing the Sixth Commandment ("Thou shalt not kill"). Police, prosecutors' offices, and courts did not respond to Forum 18's questions.

RUSSIA: Freedom of religion and belief monitoring group ordered closed

Following a media campaign, a complaint from the Veterans of Russia organisation, a Prosecutor General's Office demand, a Moscow Justice Department inspection and court suit, a Judge has ordered the liquidation of the Moscow-based SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, Russia's leading organisation monitoring freedom of religion or belief violations. "Organisations like SOVA or Memorial conducting subversive activity in Russia must be liquidated and brought to criminal responsibility," Ildar Rezyapov, who lodged the complaint, told Forum 18. The head of the Non-Governmental Organisations Department at Moscow's Justice Department refused to comment.

RUSSIA: Jailed for meetings "to understand the Koran [and] strengthen his faith"

Khunar Agayev testified to Naberezhnyye Chelny City Court that he had read Muslim theologian Said Nursi's books "to understand the Koran [and] strengthen his faith". When others were interested, he explained Nursi's works to them. The court in March jailed him and another Muslim who met others to study Nursi's works for 2 and a half years for "organising the activities of a banned extremist organisation" and ordered their religious books destroyed. The court gave a third Muslim a suspended sentence. Elsewhere, a Kazan court handed suspended sentences to three Muslims who also met to study Nursi's works.

RUSSIA: First jail term for religious-based opposition to war

On 30 March, a Moscow court jailed 63-year-old Orthodox Christian Mikhail Simonov for 7 years for disseminating "false information" about the Russian armed forces on the basis of "political hatred". He had made two short social media posts condemning Russia's war against Ukraine, including: "We, Russia, have become godless. Forgive us, Lord!" The Investigative Committee and Prosecutor's Office did not respond on why they sought a long jail term for Simonov, who suffers from health problems. A Krasnodar Region court fined 86-year-old independent Orthodox Archbishop Viktor Pivovarov two months' average pension for a sermon.

RUSSIA: Two criminal trials to resume in April

The criminal trial of Tomsk musician Anna Chagina on charges of again "discrediting" the Armed Forces resumes on 11 April. She was fined in 2022 for a poster reading "Blessed are the peacemakers". "Many times after [the arrest for the poster], I inwardly turned to these words of Christ and realised that peacemaking begins with what is in a person's heart," Chagina says. In St Petersburg, Fr Ioann Kurmoyarov's trial resumes on 10 April. He says he has been denied medical attention in prison, including from a cardiologist. New penalties for "false information" and "discreditation", also applying these actions to criticism of mercenaries, are due to come into force on 28 March.

RUSSIA: "Thou shalt not kill" leads to fines

A Moscow court fined Rostislav Charushin for his poster quoting three of the Bible's Ten Commandments which police said "clearly expresses a negative attitude towards the use of the Armed Forces". A Petrozavodsk court is due to hear a case on 20 March against yoga teacher Yekaterina Kukharskaya for putting stickers around the city bearing the Commandment "Thou shalt not kill". Buddhist former leader Telo Tulku Rinpoche – who left Russia in 2022 - became the first religious leader to be declared a "foreign agent" by the Justice Ministry.

RUSSIA: Tomsk musician's criminal trial to begin 15 March

The criminal trial of Tomsk musician Anna Chagina on charges of repeatedly "discrediting" the Armed Forces is due to begin on 15 March. She is being tried for social media posts opposing Russia's war in Ukraine, based on her Christian beliefs, having already received a fine in 2022 for her poster at an anti-war protest which read "Blessed are the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9)". Tomsk Region Investigative Committee refused to discuss the case. The criminal trial of St Petersburg Orthodox priest Fr Ioann Kurmoyarov is due to resume on 10 April.

RUSSIA: Fled fearing prosecution for preaching that war is "terrible"

Moscow Patriarchate priest Aleksandr Dombrovsky fled Russia in January, shortly after police told him the FSB had opened a criminal case against him. He had repeatedly preached against the war in Ukraine. "Everything related to my anti-war position was recorded in a most thorough manner," he told Forum 18. The criminal trial of Fr Ioann Kurmoyarov is due to resume in St Petersburg on 13 February. Fr Gleb Krivoshein became the first known person punished for signing an Orthodox open letter against the war.

RUSSIA: Two trials, nine long jail terms

Eight of nine Jehovah's Witnesses convicted on "extremism"-related charges in two trials in Russia's Far East in December 2022 received jail terms of 6 to 7 years. An Amur Region Prosecutor's Office official justified the jailings: "Any missionary activity of members of a religious organisation liquidated by a court in connection with repeated violations of the law on countering extremist activity will be illegal in nature and subject to liability established by law." The 9 were among 124 Jehovah's Witnesses criminally convicted in 2022. Trials continue.

RUSSIA: Refusing to "carry out orders aimed at destruction and utter defeat of living people"

A Leningrad Region court upheld Pavel Mushumansky's request to have his mobilisation order cancelled. He had stated in his application for alternative service that based on his Christian beliefs he could not "carry out orders aimed at the destruction and utter defeat of living people". Once the decision enters legal force, he should be able to return home from his military base. Dmitry Zlakazov, a Protestant whose application for alternative civilian service was rejected, lost his lawsuit against the military authorities. His whereabouts are unclear.

RUSSIA: No legal provision for alternative civilian service during mobilisation

No legal or practical provision exists for alternative civilian service (ACS) during mobilisation, despite the Constitution guaranteeing this right for every citizen. This has led to military recruitment offices refusing applications for ACS and sending conscientious objectors to military units. Moreover, a November legal amendment allows those already undertaking ACS after being called up for regular military service to be transferred to a non-combat role within the Armed Forces. The amendment effectively "abolishes ACS as a peaceful alternative to military service" during mobilisation, says lawyer Valeriya Vetoshkina.

RUSSIA: Administrative fines continue for Ukraine war protests

Yekaterinburg-based artist Ivan Lyubimov has been fined three times for "discrediting" Russia's armed forces for protesting against Russia's war in Ukraine with posters with religious themes. Police have also taken him to court twice for conducting an illegal demonstration and jailed him for 30 days. A Moscow court fined 72-year-old Catholic Galina Borisova for pinning a note to the Russian flag outside St Louis' Church. Another Moscow court acquitted district deputy Konstantin Yankauskas, saying that reposting Pope Francis' words on social media had not "discredited" the army.

RUSSIA: Opposition to war in Ukraine – administrative prosecutions, detentions

A St Petersburg court is due to hear the case on 25 November of Danara Erendzhenova, who held up a poster outside the city's Buddhist temple. "Militarism is very expensive – Dalai Lama XIV", it read, which police claim "discredits" Russia's armed forces. A Chita court fined Vitaly Goryachikh two weeks' average local wage for an anti-war poster which cited "I will fear no evil" from Psalm 23. They are among at least 26 known such prosecutions for opposing Russia's war against Ukraine on the basis of faith.

RUSSIA: First criminal conviction for opposing war in Ukraine on religious grounds

Russian Orthodox (ROCOR) priest Nikandr Pinchuk became the first person to receive a criminal conviction for opposing Russia's war in Ukraine on religious grounds. A court in the Urals fined him two months' average local wage for a social media post condemning the "horde of the Antichrist" attacking Ukraine. Neither Verkhoturye District Court nor Prosecutor's Office replied to Forum 18's questions on why expressing religious views on the war in Ukraine should be considered "discreditation" of the Armed Forces and incur such a large fine.

RUSSIA: Two priests on trial for opposing Russia's war in Ukraine

Two Russian Orthodox priests are on criminal trial for opposing Russia's war in Ukraine from a religious perspective and could face imprisonment or massive fines. Fr Nikandr Pinchuk's first full trial hearing in Sverdlovsk Region is due on 17 October. Fr Ioann Kurmoyarov's trial in St Petersburg is due to resume on 14 November. He has been in pre-trial detention since early June. Investigative Committee officials in St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg refused to explain why they brought prosecutions for opposing the war on religious grounds.

RUSSIA: Four-year jail term if Russia gets back exiled Muslim?

If Russia succeeds in getting back exiled Imam Ilkhom Merazhov, he could be tried and punished with a maximum four-year jail term. He left Russia in 2015, but in June 2022 the Novosibirsk FSB reopened the criminal case to punish him for meeting with others to study the works of theologian Said Nursi. On 8 September, a Novosibirsk court issued a detention order in absentia. The FSB has sought to have an Interpol Red Notice issued, though it remains unclear whether Interpol has approved any request.

RUSSIA: 200 people on criminal trial for exercising freedom of religion or belief

Nearly 200 Jehovah's Witnesses and 9 Muslims who study Said Nursi's writings are on criminal trial for exercising freedom of religion and belief. Since June, courts jailed 17 Jehovah's Witnesses for "organising" or "participating in" banned communities. "I still do not understand what my crime is," Yelena Nikulina told a Saransk court. "There are no victims in our case, but there are still injured parties – and they are in front of you, in the dock!" The court jailed her and her husband for 4 years, 2 months.

RUSSIA: Six who met to study their faith on trial in Moscow

On 1 September [postponed to 22 September], Moscow's Kuzminsky District Court is due to begin the largest criminal trial for eight years of Muslims who met to study the works of the theologian Said Nursi, which have been banned as "extremist". Prosecutors accuse the six men – who face possible long jail terms - of forming a "home madrassah". The men have been in Butyrka prison since October 2021. Moscow City Prosecutor's Office did not respond as to who might have been harmed by the men's exercise of freedom of religion or belief.

RUSSIA: New registers of "extremist" people and literature

July legal amendments introduce a new register of people allegedly connected to "extremism", apparently to be used in parallel with the existing Rosfinmonitoring "List of Terrorists and Extremists". Individuals liable for inclusion are so broadly defined that it is unclear whether there may be wider implications, including for religious believers whose organisations have been banned as "extremist", such as Jehovah's Witnesses or Muslim Nursi readers. "Anyone could end up [on the new unified register]," says Aleksandr Verkhovsky of the SOVA Center in Moscow.

RUSSIA: "Retroactively depriving Russian citizens of the right to international protection"

Under June amendments, Russia will not enforce any European Court of Human Rights decision which came into force after 15 March, and will pay outstanding compensation in earlier cases only in Roubles and not to bank accounts in countries deemed "unfriendly". "Russia hasn't been the best in enforcing ECtHR judgments domestically, far from it," says a Jehovah's Witness lawyer, but added that positive judgments "generally slowed down the infringements". Moscow lawyer Sergey Okhotin described the amendments as "retroactively depriving Russian citizens of the right to international protection".

RUSSIA: Government pressure on religious leaders to support Ukraine war

The government has pressured religious leaders to support Russia's renewed invasion of Ukraine, and prosecuted and fined religious believers and leaders who publicly oppose the war. Lutheran Bishop Dietrich Brauer and Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt left Russia in March after resisting state pressure to support the war. The FSB security service warned local religious leaders, including at least three Protestant pastors individually in one region. "Such warnings don't take place now," a pastor told Forum 18 in July. "Those [March warnings] were enough for everyone."

RUSSIA: Administrative prosecutions for opposing Ukraine war

Police in Yekaterinburg detained artist Ivan Lyubimov for quoting on his anti-war poster John Donne's text "No man is an island" and UN figures for civilian casualties in Ukraine. He awaits charges. Police in Kaluga charged Aleksandr Ivanov for an anti-war statement on his online Orthodox encyclopaedia on the war's first day. For fear of prosecution, the site has been forced to remove its news section, which had reported the destruction of churches in Ukraine and reposted foreign Orthodox leaders' anti-war pronouncements.

RUSSIA: Second Orthodox priest facing criminal charges for opposing Ukraine war

Russian Orthodox priest Fr Nikandr Pinchuk faces a criminal case for opposing Russia's war against Ukraine. He opposed the war on religious grounds. He is under investigation under Criminal Code Article 280.3, which punishes a repeat offence of "discrediting" the Armed Forces. "But I have committed no crime," says Fr Nikandr. "I am a priest and have the right to denounce evil, regardless of who is involved and the political situation." He remains a suspect and has not been arrested.

RUSSIA: Orthodox priest detained for opposing war "outraged by absurdity of accusations"

Fr Ioann Kurmoyarov posted videos outlining his religious opposition to Russia's war against Ukraine. Arrested on 7 June, he is in St Petersburg's Kresty prison awaiting trial for the new criminal offence of disseminating "knowingly false information" about the military. St Petersburg Investigative Committee has not responded to Forum 18's questions. "He is aware that he may be sentenced to a long term of imprisonment – up to 10 years – but he does not intend to deviate from his convictions," says his lawyer Leonid Krikun.

RUSSIA: Renewed criminal trials of Muslim Nursi readers

Three Muslims who met with others to study the works of theologian Said Nursi are on criminal trial on "extremism" charges in Izberbash, Dagestan. Judges closed similar cases with the "active repentance" of the defendants, the court claims. "People have been persuaded or forced to sign confessions by intimidation and deception," says a fellow Muslim. Other criminal cases continue in Dagestan and Tatarstan. Criminal cases against almost 200 Jehovah's Witnesses are in court. On 1 June, a Vladivostok court handed six Jehovah's Witnesses suspended sentences.

RUSSIA: Five years after Jehovah's Witness ban, jailings continue

Five years on from the 2017 ban on Jehovah's Witnesses, prosecutors have launched criminal cases on "extremism" charges against more than 600 individuals, of whom more than 200 have so far been convicted. Nearly 60 have received prison terms ranging from one to eight years. Andrey Vlasov, who is registered disabled, was sentenced to seven years in labour camp. "The essence of the accusation boils down to the fact that after 2017 I remained a believer and profess the Jehovah's Witness religion," he told the court.

RUSSIA: Opposition to war in Ukraine - official pressure and censorship

State censorship and control of religious communities increased following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Lutheran Archbishop Dietrich Brauer, who has left Russia, said that, at the start of the war, President Putin's administration made "a clear demand" of religious leaders to speak out in favour of the invasion. Another Protestant pastor says FSB officers visited clergy to warn them not to say anything critical in sermons or on social media. Protestors against the war on the basis of their faith continue to be detained.

RUSSIA: Religious opposition to war in Ukraine - prosecutions and detentions

Despite the official support for Russia's invasion shown by many religious leaders, most notably those in the Moscow Patriarchate, small numbers of clergy and laypeople in Russia continue to protest for explicitly religious reasons against the renewed war in Ukraine. They often face detention, prosecution, and the loss of their jobs in consequence. One, Fr Ioann Burdin, told Forum 18 he is appealing against being fined "so that life is not a bed of roses for the authorities and judges".

RUSSIA: First known criminal investigation for opposing Ukraine war on explicitly religious grounds

Nina Belyayeva, a Protestant who is a Communist Party municipal deputy, has become the first known person in Russia to face criminal prosecution for opposing the war in Ukraine on explicitly religious grounds. During a meeting of Semiluk District Council in Voronezh Region she called Russia's invasion a war crime. She later wrote: "I realised that if I kept silent, I would not be able to respect myself. I wouldn't be a true Christian and human being." She fled Russia in early April.

RUSSIA: 71 known "missionary activity" prosecutions in 2021 – list

Forum 18 found 71 prosecutions in 2021 (4 of organisations and 67 of individuals) for violating Russia's July 2016 Administrative Code Article 5.26, Parts 4 and 5, which punish "illegal missionary activity". 44 of the prosecutions resulted in initial convictions, all being punished with fines (though 7 were overturned on appeal). In 2021 there was a conviction rate of 85 per cent. Of the 15 foreigners prosecuted, 4 were fined, of whom 3 were also ordered deported.

RUSSIA: 37 known "missionary activity" prosecutions in second half of 2020 – list

Forum 18 found 37 prosecutions in the second half of 2020 (3 of organisations and 34 of individuals) for violating Russia's July 2016 Administrative Code Article 5.26, Parts 4 and 5, which punish "illegal missionary activity". 27 of the prosecutions resulted in initial convictions, all being punished with fines (though 3 were overturned on appeal). The second half of 2020 saw a conviction rate of 84 per cent. Neither of the two convicted and fined foreigners was ordered deported.

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