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Monday, December 4, 2023
AsiaOver 2000 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses searched in 6 years in Russia

Over 2000 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses searched in 6 years in Russia

Willy Fautre
Willy Fautrehttps://www.hrwf.eu
Willy Fautré, former chargé de mission at the Cabinet of the Belgian Ministry of Education and at the Belgian Parliament. He is the director of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), an NGO based in Brussels that he founded in December 1988. His organization defends human rights in general with a special focus on ethnic and religious minorities, freedom of expression, women’s rights and LGBT people. HRWF is independent from any political movement and any religion. Fautré has carried out fact-finding missions on human rights in more than 25 countries, including in perilous regions such as in Iraq, in Sandinist Nicaragua or in Maoist held territories of Nepal. He is a lecturer in universities in the field of human rights. He has published many articles in university journals about relations between state and religions. He is a member of the Press Club in Brussels. He is a human rights advocate at the UN, the European Parliament and the OSCE.

Since the ban of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2017, more than 2,000 homes of believers have been subjected to lengthy searches. Nearly 400 people were thrown in jail, and 730 believers were criminally charged.

730 JWs criminally charged and 400 jailed

A total of 730 people, including 166 women, have been criminally prosecuted over the past six years, as of June 8, 2023.

Elena JW Over 2000 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses searched in 6 years in Russia
Zayshchuk Elena

Almost a quarter of all victims of criminal prosecution for their faith are over 60 years old—173 people. The oldest is 89-year-old Elena Zayshchuk from Vladivostok.

In May 2023, during a raid on believers in Novocheboksarsk, Chuvashia, Yuriy Yuskov, an 85-year-old local believer, learned that he was being criminally prosecuted.


Searches have taken place in almost every part of Russia—in 77 regions.

The largest numbers were in Krasnoyarsk Territory (119), Primorye Territory (97), Krasnodar Territory (92), Voronezh Region (79), Stavropol Territory (65), Rostov Region (56), Chelyabinsk Region (55), Moscow (54), Trans-Baikal Territory (53), Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area (50), Kemerovo Region (47), Tatarstan (46), Khabarovsk Territory (44), Astrakhan Region (43), and Kirov Region (41). On the peninsula of Crimea, including Sevastopol, Russian authorities conducted a total of 98 searches of the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Here are the largest operations conducted against believers in a single day: 64 searches in Voronezh (July 2020); 35 searches in Sochi (October 2019); 27 searches in Astrakhan (June 2020); 27 searches in Nizhny Novgorod (July 2019); 23 searches in Chita(February 2020); 23 searches in Krasnoyarsk (November 2018); 22 searches in Unecha and Novozybkovo, Bryansk region (June 2019); 22 searches in Birobidzhan (May 2018); 22 searches in Moscow (November 2020); 22 searches in Surgut (February 2019); and 20 searches in Kirsanov, Tambov region (December 2020). 

These are the largest one-day special operations conducted in the last 15 months: 17 searches in Vladivostok (March 2023); 16 searches in Simferopol on the Crimean Peninsula (December 2022); 13 searches in Chelyabinsk (September 2022); and 16 searches in Rybinsk, Yaroslavl Region (July 2022). 


The special operation in Voronezh in July 2020 was the largest raid on Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Investigative Committee reported that more than 110 searches were conducted. From the regional capital alone, 64 searches were reported. Five believers reported abuse and torture by security forces.

Ten people were sent to pre-trial detention centers. Yuri Galka and Anatoly Yagupov were able to report from the detention center that on the day they were detained, they were suffocated with bags and beaten in an effort to force a confession. In addition, believers Aleksandr Bokov, Dmitry Katyrov, and Aleksandr Korol stated that they were beaten. 

Membero of the Jehovah's Witnesses Tolmachev Andrey
Tolmachev Andrey

During the special operation in Irkutsk, which took place in October 2020, windows and doors in the homes of believers were broken. People were beaten and tortured, such as Anatoly Razdobarov, Nikolai Merinov, and their wives. During medical examinations, these and other believers documented multiple injuries. Andrei Tolmachev, the only son of his retired parents, was beaten to unconsciousness right in front of their eyes during the search. He and seven other local Jehovah’s Witnesses have been confined to a pre-trial detention center for more than 600 days. 

The special operation in Moscow, which took place in November 2020, was widely covered on Russian television. Law enforcement officers wearing helmets and bulletproof vests and carrying automatic rifles broke down doors, threw believers to the floor, and handcuffed or tied their hands behind their backs with plastic clamps. During one search, they first twisted the arms of a neighbor of the believers, but when they realized they had made a mistake, they began breaking down the door to the believers’ apartment. The head of the family had his hands tied, was thrown on the floor, and was hit with the butt of submachine gun on the back. During another search, law enforcers struck 49-year-old Vardan Zakaryan in the head with the butt of an automatic rifle. The believer was hospitalized and kept in the hospital under heavy guard.

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