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ReligionChristianityThe first prison sentence for opposing the war on religious grounds was...

The first prison sentence for opposing the war on religious grounds was issued in Russia

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Gaston de Persigny
Gaston de Persigny
Gaston de Persigny - Reporter at The European Times News

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A 63-year-old Russian Orthodox Christian has become the first person to be sentenced to prison for expressing his opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine in religious terms. Mikhail Simonov is accused of spreading “false information” about the Russian armed forces based on “political hatred” over two social media posts in which he condemned the Russian attacks on Kiev and Mariupol.

In March 2022, he wrote on a social network: “We kill children and women, and we sing songs on the First TV channel. We, Russia, have become godless! Forgive us, Lord!”. It was this publication that became the basis of his accusation.

On March 30, 2023, a Moscow court sentenced Mikhail Simonov to seven years in prison, followed by a four-year internet ban. He has been in pre-trial prison No. 5 in Moscow since November 2022. Before the court, M. Simonov asked to be placed under house arrest due to poor health – hypertonic crises, headaches and loss of consciousness, coronary heart disease. His defense request was denied and he remains in pre-trial detention in Moscow pending a possible appeal.

Mihail Simonov is charged under Art. 207.3 of the Criminal Code, which Vladimir Putin signed in March 2022, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Russians who oppose the war, including a small number who do so on religious grounds or express their opposition in religious terms, are also prosecuted under Art. 20.3.3 of the Administrative Code on “Public actions aimed at discrediting the use of the armed forces of the Russian Federation.”

Two more people – both Orthodox Christians – are on trial for their religious opposition to Russia’s war on Ukraine. One is Fr. Ioan Kurmoyarov, who has been in pre-trial detention since June 2022 because of a video in which he says that there is no holy war in Orthodoxy, and only peacemakers will go to heaven. He was detained on a tip-off by the Anti-Sectarian Service of the Western Vicariate of the Moscow City Diocese. His trial is scheduled for April 25. The second case is against the music teacher Anna Chagina, an Orthodox Christian, because on March 22, 2022, she silently held a poster with a quote from the Gospel: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matt. 5:9). The case against her is being heard in the court in Tomsk.

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