The Case of Korolev and Others in Akhtubinsk

Case History

On a morning in November 2021, in Akhtubinsk and Znamensk (Astrakhan Region) Jehovah’s Witnesses were interrogated and their homes were searched. Prior to that some of them had been under surveillance. The security forces broke down doors, damaged property, and forced both men and women to the floor. The Investigative Committee initiated a criminal case against Sergey Korolev, Rinat Kiramov and Sergey Kosyanenko, considering peaceful meetings for worship to be extremist activity. The believers were placed in a temporary detention facility, and then in a pretrial detention center, where they spent more than 1.5 years. In October 2022, the case went to court. Some witnesses for the prosecution, including a secret witness, partially or completely retracted their preliminary testimony. In April 2023, the court sentenced Korolev, Kiramov and Kosyanenko to 7 years imprisonment. Four months later, the court of appeal upheld the verdict against the believers. The court of cassation upheld this decision. In April 2024, Rinat Kiramov was unlawfully transferred to correctional medical facility No. 3 in the Tula Region, where he was subjected to abuse and torture.

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    November 9, 2021

    At 5 a.m., the investigator of the Akhtuba Interdistrict Investigation Department of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Astrakhan Region, Sergey Savinich, opened a criminal case against three believers: Sergey Korolev, Rinat Kiramov and Sergey Kosyanenko. Within a couple of hours, searches are being carried out at at least 15 addresses in Akhtubinsk and Znamensk.

    Investigative actions last from 4 to 10 hours. Telephones, personal records, information carriers and printed publications are seized from believers. Law enforcement officers interrogate at least 15 citizens and make audio recordings of the voices of some of them for later identification.

    Having knocked on Rinat Kiramov's door, the security forces introduce themselves as neighbors, whom the spouses allegedly flood. Then they break down the door and order the Kiramov family and their guests to lie on the floor. One of them had to remain in this position for more than an hour. Phones, passports and car keys are seized from Kiramov's friends. The security forces open the ceiling in the kitchen, as a result of which its suspension system falls, break the dishes and partially dismantle the panels of the balcony cladding. Law enforcement officers take away all those present for interrogation. Copies of the protocols are not provided to the guests of the Kiramovs, citing the fact that the official search did not take place at their place.

    During a search in the Korolevs' house, Sergey's wife's blood pressure rises sharply. One of the law enforcement officers tries to calm her down. The spouses are allowed to have breakfast before taking them away for interrogation. According to the investigator, the believers were monitored and wiretapped. After interrogation, Sergey Korolev is placed in a temporary detention facility.

    After a search in another house, the security forces take away for questioning a mother and son, a hearing impaired person of group III. He is experiencing a strong emotional shock, as he cannot hear the investigator well, and he is not provided with a sign language interpreter.

    Investigators prevent believers from exercising their right not to testify against themselves and their loved ones, interpreting the use of Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation as a refusal to testify.

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    November 10, 2021

    The Akhtubinsk District Court elects a measure of restraint for Sergey Korolev in the form of detention until January 9, 2022.

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    November 11, 2021 Search

    Sergey Korolev, Rinat Kiramov and Sergey Kosyanenko are elected a measure of restraint in the form of detention. Three believers are sent to pre-trial detention center No. 1 in the Astrakhan region.

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    August 17, 2022 Case initiated

    Investigator Savinich initiates another criminal case against three believers under Part 1 of Article 282.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (financing the activities of an extremist organization). Later, he combines it into one proceeding with the case previously initiated against Korolev, Kiramov and Kosyanenko.

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    October 27, 2022 Case went to court

    The case goes to the Akhtubinsky District Court of the Astrakhan Region.

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    November 1, 2022 Detention center

    The Akhtuba District Court extends the period of detention of believers until April 27, 2023.

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    November 18, 2022 Detention center

    The Astrakhan Regional Court upholds the decision to extend the period of detention of believers, reducing it by only 1 day - until April 26, 2023.

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    November 24, 25, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The challenge to the judge filed by the defense remains unsatisfied.

    The prosecutor announces the indictment and proceeds to the examination of the case materials.

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    December 5, 7–9, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    On December 5 and 7, Sergey Kosyanenko is present only at part of the hearings for health reasons - he is being provided with emergency medical care in the temporary detention facility. On December 8, doctors were summoned to the courthouse - Sergey Kosyanenko became ill at the hearing.

    Prosecution witnesses are questioned at the hearing. The first of them says that he does not know the defendants, only Rinat Kiramov "met a couple of times on the street." The prosecutor reads out part of the preliminary testimony of the witness, where it is said that he is familiar with the defendants and calls them "organizers". The witness insists that he did not give the testimony assigned to him and reports that he signed the protocol without reading, as he was interrogated without glasses.

    Another witness uses Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and confirms his preliminary testimony.

    The defense objects to the fact that the prosecutor does not allow the wives of the defendants into the courtroom. The judge does not allow the prosecutor to challenge.

    The state prosecutor continues to read out the case materials.

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    February 8, 9, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Sergei Korolev's wife, Ekaterina, is being interrogated. She gives a positive characteristic to her husband. When answering most of the prosecutor's questions, he uses Article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

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    February 10, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    At the court session, a secret witness is being interrogated - a man with whom Rinat Kiramov talked about the Bible. The man considers the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses to be prohibited in Russia. At the same time, he says that the believers did not carry out extremist activities. The witness partially refutes the testimony he gave during the preliminary investigation.

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    February 27, 28, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The announcement of the written materials of the case continues. A man who previously professed the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses is being interrogated. He does not say anything bad about believers and does not confirm most of the testimony given earlier.

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    March 1, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    Another witness is being interrogated. He confirms his preliminary testimony.

    Next, the defense presents evidence. The wives of the defendants Kiramov and Kosyanenko, as well as Kiramov's mother, are being interrogated. They give their relatives extremely positive characteristics.

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    March 16, 17, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    At the initiative of the prosecution, E. V. Shtanko, who communicated with believers, pretending to be interested in the Bible and collaborated with law enforcement agencies, is being interrogated. The woman does not hide her hostility to the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. Her testimony has nothing to do with the charges against the defendants.

    Witnesses of the defense are being interrogated, who give a good description of Sergey Kosyanenko.

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    March 27, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The defense presents its evidence. Defense witnesses are being interrogated, who give a good description of Rinat Kiramov, Rinat and Sergey Korolev.

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    March 28, 2023 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The defendants testify to the court.

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    April 12, 2023 Final statement In the courtroom Closing arguments for the defense Prosecutor requested punishment

    The prosecutor asks to appoint each of the believers to 8 years in a general regime colony, to deprive them of the right to lead public organizations and participate in their work for 4 years, as well as to impose additional restrictions on freedom for 2 years.

    All the defendants make their final statements. At the next hearing, the court will announce the verdict.

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    April 17, 2023
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    August 31, 2023 Art. 282.2 (1) Art. 282.3 (1) Deprivation of liberty
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    October 13, 2023 Transfer of a prisoner

    Sergey Korolev, Rinat Kiramov and Sergey Kosyanenko are transferred from the Astrakhan pre-trial detention center No. 1 to a correctional colony.

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    November 2, 2023 Transfer of a prisoner Letters Life in prison

    Sergei Korolev arrives at the colony. During the transit, he is interrogated by the staff of the Center for Countering Extremism.

    Sergey Kosyanenko is taken to Penal Colony No. 6 in the Moscow Region, located in the city of Kolomna, to serve his sentence. He can write letters.

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    November 12, 2023 Life in prison

    There are another 40 people in the barracks where the believer is kept. The conditions are normal, Sergey feels good. He has a Bible. In his spare time, he studies English and does gymnastics.

    The inmates were surprised to learn that Ekaterina, Sergey's wife, had moved almost 700 kilometers to be closer to her husband.

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    November 20, 2023 Transfer of a prisoner Letters Life in prison

    Rinat Kiramov is taken to correctional colony No. 6 in the Tula region in the city of Novomoskovsk. Upon arrival, the believer is quarantined.

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    December 10, 2023 Life in prison

    Kiramov has good relations with the administration and other prisoners. He works as a baker, while mastering this profession. The believer is treated kindly, he tries to work conscientiously.

    Rinat has a Bible, and he has already received several letters and a parcel from relatives.

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    February 2, 2024 Life in prison Letters

    Sergei Korolev is being held in the barracks along with 30 other prisoners. The believer has a normal relationship with them. There are no problems with the administration either.

    Sergey works in a machine shop, sawing metal on a machine. He regularly receives letters of support and tries to respond to them. The believer has the opportunity to read the Bible.

    Korolev also regularly receives parcels from his wife. This supports Sergey emotionally. The couple were allowed a long visit.

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    March 19, 2024 Court of Cassation Deprivation of liberty Art. 282.2 (1) Art. 282.3 (1) Elderly
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    June 4, 2024 Health risk Torture Torture conditions in detention Forced hospitalization Complaints