Case of Nikiforov and Others in Chekhov

Case History

The criminal case initiated in September 2019 against Chekhov residents Yuri and Zinaida Krutyakov, Konstantin Zherebtsov and Vitaly Nikiforov was based on the testimony of an FSB officer who pretended to be interested in the Bible. On the night of October 3, 2019, security forces raided the believers’ homes with searches. Zherebtsov, Nikiforov and Krutyakova were placed under house arrest. Later, Yuriy was taken to the pre-trial detention center. There he stayed for 445 days; His eyesight deteriorated sharply. In January 2021, hearings began in the Chekhov City Court of the Moscow Region. The prosecutor requested a suspended sentence of 2 to 6 years for the four defendants. On May 24, Judge Iryna Pantela gave the believers a suspended sentence: Yuriy — 6 years, Zinaida — 2 years and 3 months, Konstantin — 2 years and 2 months, Vitaliy — 2 years. All were also given various probationary periods. On July 20, 2021, the Moscow Regional Court upheld the verdict, and on January 13, 2022, the cassation court did not satisfy the believers’ appeal.

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    June 2018

    According to investigators, a 67-year-old resident of Chekhov near Moscow, Yuri Krutyakov, while waiting for a train at the station, got into a conversation with Stanislav Kuznetsky. Hiding that he worked for the FSB, Stanislav asked the believer to help him understand the Bible. Later, he called the believer, complained about family troubles, asked for Bible advice and asked the believer about his like-minded people.

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    January 11, 2019

    According to investigators, believer Vitaly Nikiforov met with Stanislav Kuznetsky and, sitting in the car, "discussed the issue of buying a tablet by Kuznetsky for the subsequent download of prohibited literature," and also "reported the circumstances of his acceptance of this faith." (In fact, Nikiforov, as a technician, only shared his experience of which technique worked best. He did not discuss with him what exactly Kuznetsky intended to download from the Internet.)

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    March 21, 2019

    According to investigators, on Station Square in Chekhov, believer Zinaida Krutyakova "in the cabin of a car belonging to S.V. Kuznetsky, explained to him the provisions and interpretations of the chapters of unidentified religious literature with the ideology of the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses."

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    April 4, 2019

    According to investigators, on Vokzalnaya Square in Chekhov, believer Zinaida Krutyakova "interviewed [FSB officer] S.V. Kuznetsky about how he did his homework to study the chapters of the Bible with the subsequent interpretation of its provisions."

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    August 5, 2019

    According to investigators, believer Konstantin Zherebtsov, sitting in a car, "organized a meeting with [FSB officer] S.V. Kuznetsky, taught him how to pray to Jehovah God, explained the provisions and interpretation of the chapters of the Bible, John 5:28-29, Revelation 20:13, Acts 24:15, showing them on a tablet belonging to S.V. Kuznetsky."

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    September 22, 2019

    Surveillance and wiretapping of the phone of one of the believers was noticed.

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    September 27, 2019

    Surveillance of Zherebtsov K. was noticed.

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    October 1, 2019

    There is information in the media about the initiation of 5 criminal cases under Part 2 of Article 282.2 by the Chief Investigative Committee of the Investigative Committee of Russia of the Moscow Region, including against Yuri Krutyakov, who, according to the investigation, was previously one of the founders of the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in Podolsk. The investigation believes that he attracted his wife and three other residents of the Moscow region to the faith.

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    October 3, 2019

    On the night of October 3, a search was conducted at Zherebtsov K., Zherebtsov P., Krutyakov Y. and Krutyakova Z., Nikiforov V., Yakovlev N. During the searches, money and tools were stolen, after the detention people were not fed until 36 hours, one of the relatives was broken by the security forces. The night searches were followed by many hours of interrogations in the Main Investigation Department for the Moscow Region (at 38/2 Komintern Street in Moscow). By the evening of the next day, at least three believers were sent to a temporary detention facility (IVS).

    Bringing Z. Krutyakova as a defendant under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation

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    October 4, 2019

    Believers from the temporary detention facility in handcuffs are taken to the Babushkinsky District Court of Moscow, which chooses a measure of restraint in the form of house arrest for Zherebtsov K., Krutyakova Z., Nikiforov V., Yakovlev N. until 29.11.2019.

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    October 6, 2019

    Zherebtsov K. and Nikiforov V. filed an appeal against the decision on house arrest.

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    October 7, 2019

    Z. Krutyakova filed an appeal against the decision on house arrest.

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    October 8, 2019 Search
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    November 6, 2019 Search
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    November 7, 2019

    The Moscow City Court on appeal supports the decision of the Babushkinsky District Court to send three believers under house arrest - Vitaly Nikiforov, Zinaida Krutyakova and Konstantin Zherebtsov. Dozens of observers, including foreign diplomats, came to court. Obviously, the ambiguous role of the FSB officer in this case attracted public attention.

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    November 28, 2019

    About 100 people come to the Babushkinsky District Court of Moscow for a hearing on the extension of house arrest for believers from Chekhov near Moscow. Unexpectedly, the court extends the house arrest of Konstantin Zherebtsov, Zinaida Krutyakova, Vitaly Nikiforov for more than 3 months. Another older believer was seen among the defendants in the case, but the investigator and the man's relatives prevent the rest of the believers from contacting him in any way. None of his fellow believers were allowed to attend the hearing on his case. It is known that a milder measure of restraint was chosen for him.

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    January 31, 2020

    A criminal case under Article 282.2 (2) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation is being initiated against 66-year-old Stepan Adamov from Chekhov near Moscow. Thus, Adamov becomes the sixth believer in this city, persecuted for his beliefs.

    The case is being conducted by the investigator for especially important cases, Lieutenant Colonel of Justice Y. Kobylyatsky. He believes that a sufficient reason for initiating a criminal case against Adamov is that the believer "interpreted the Bible, read a prayer to Jehovah God, explaining religious concepts [...], citing examples from life." The investigator interprets Adamov's actions as a continuation of the activities of a banned organization.

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    February 18, 2020

    The case against Stepan Adamov shall be combined into one proceeding with this criminal case.

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    February 28, 2020

    On the eve of the court session, investigator Kabylyatsky warns Zinaida Krutyakova that she will be sent to a pre-trial detention center, so she comes to court the next day with her belongings.

    By 10:00 a.m., more than 100 people gather here to support their fellow believers, but the meeting is postponed until 3:00 p.m. As a result of the hearings, Judge Kurysheva extends the term of house arrest of Krutyakova, Zherebtsov and Nikiforov for two months.

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    March 5, 2020

    The Babushkinsky District Court of Moscow is holding an open court session, which brings together more than 60 listeners who want to support 67-year-old Yuri Krutyakov. He is suspected of organizing the activities of an extremist organization and participating in it (Part 1, Part 1.1 and Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).

    Judge Natalia Kurysheva, at the request of the investigator of the Main Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of Russia for the Moscow Region I. Vladimirov, decides to detain Yuri for a period of 1 month and 26 days (until April 30, 2020). This happens despite the fact that the elderly believer voluntarily came to the Investigative Committee, which means that he has no intention of hiding from the investigation. Yuriy's wife Zinaida Krutyakova is already under house arrest.

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    March 30, 2020
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    April 16, 2020 Court of Appeal

    The Moscow City Court is considering the appeal against Yuriy Krutyakov and leaves the decision to keep the believer in custody until April 30, 2020 unchanged. The case is transferred back to the Babushkinsky District Court of Moscow.

    The judge makes this decision despite the fact that the prisoner began to have health problems, including internal organs. Yuriy sends complaints, but so far he has been denied an examination.

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    April 29, 2020 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    The court extends the current measure of restraint for all believers until July 29, 2020. Zinaida Krutyakova's health condition is deteriorating sharply, she needs a medical examination.

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    April 30, 2020

    The defense is filing an appeal against the extension of the period of detention of Yuri Krutyakov.

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    June 9, 2020

    The Moscow City Court upholds the decision of the lower court on appeal.

    Yuriy Krutyakov has been put on preventive registration as a person prone to extremism. The fact of studying, confessing and disseminating "extremist ideology" by believers is indicated as the basis for registration.

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    June 16, 2020

    The Moscow City Court is holding an appeal hearing to extend the house arrest of Zinaida Krutyakova, Konstantin Zherebtsov and Vitaly Nikiforov.

    Only before the start of the hearing, the accused are provided with a copy of the additional appeal of the lawyer. They don't have time to read it.

    Zinaida Krutyakova reads out to the court information about the state of her health and asks to attach a discharge summary to the case. The accused tells the court what she believes. During the debate, Zinaida's lawyer says that his client is "an example of a positive lifestyle." He also draws the court's attention to her state of health, which means that she needs to spend more time outdoors. Further, the lawyer draws attention to the fact that in the testimony of the witness Kuznetsky there is no evidence of Krutyakova's involvement in the charges.

    The judge allows Konstantin Zherebtsov to present his religious views.

    Vitaliy Nikiforov's lawyer expresses the opinion that the investigation is conducted biasedly, with prejudice, and the extension of house arrest is one of the measures to delay the process. Disagreeing with the chosen measure of restraint, she also says: "All three are adherents of a peaceful religion, [...] They live by the principle of 'love thy neighbor as thyself.'"

    The Moscow City Court dismisses the appeal. Krutyakova, Zherebtsov and Nikiforov remain under house arrest until at least July 29, 2020.

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    August 25, 2020

    The investigator for especially important cases of the Main Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Moscow Region, Y. I. Kobylyatsky, singles out the criminal case against Stepan Adamov in a separate proceeding.

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    September 20, 2020

    Yuriy Krutyakov is transferred to pre-trial detention center No. 7 in Moscow. It is kept in a chamber without hot water and a refrigerator, so it cannot receive perishable food.

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    October 5, 2020

    Investigator for especially important cases of the 1st investigation department of the 2nd department for investigation of especially important cases of the Main Investigative Directorate for the Moscow Region Kobylyatsky Y. I. charges Konstantin Zherebtsov with committing a crime under Part 2 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation - participation in the activities of a religious association liquidated by the court on "extremist grounds".

    The investigator interprets the usual conversations of two believers in the car with S.V. Kuznetsky, who, on the instructions of the FSB, imitated interest in biblical teachings, as a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Constitution of the Russian Federation and other laws.

    According to the investigation, the accused took active actions "in the form of a church-preaching discourse, manifested in a special set and specificity of the functioning of lexical units correlated with doctrinal and moralizing concepts, within the framework of this religious direction and an appeal to those present to conduct Bible study classes."

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    October 17, 2020

    Yuriy Krutyakov is transferred to the FKU SIZO-2 of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia in Moscow, the so-called "Butyrka" (Address: 45 Novoslobodskaya Street, Moscow, Russia, 127055). In addition to Yuri, 20 other people are being held in the cell.

    Recently, Yuriy's eyesight has deteriorated sharply. In fact, he goes blind. However, numerous appeals about proper medical examination and treatment, which Yuri sent to the management of SIZO-7, where he was held until his transfer to a new place, remained unanswered. Yuriy hopes that the administration and employees of the medical unit of SIZO-2 will be able to ensure his right to treatment.

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    November 26, 2020

    The management of SIZO-2 ignores Yuriy's complaints about the rapid loss of vision, without even recording the facts of the appeal. Considering that the believer has not received proper medical care before, he has not been able to receive the necessary treatment for almost 9 months, during which he has been in custody.

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    December 26, 2020

    Yuriy Krutyakov is transferred to the FKU SIZO-3 of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia in the Moscow Region. Now he is in a common cell, his quarantine has been lifted.

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    January 14, 2021

    Hearings begin in the Chekhov City Court of the Moscow Region. Judge Alla Blinova partially satisfies the petitions of Zinaida Krutyakova, Konstantin Zherebtsov and Vitaly Nikiforov, who recently broke his arm. Believers are allowed to visit doctors and the time of walks has been increased.

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    March 4, 2021

    The case is being considered by a new judge, Irina Pantela. Witnesses in the case positively characterize Yuriy and Zinaida Krutyakov. A neighbor on the landing speaks of this family as quiet, friendly people.

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    March 16, 2021

    Testimony is given by investigators Belov and Golovanov, who carried out operational-search measures against believers. Belov states: "We analyzed the accounts of the defendants, and I want to note that there were no receipts from abroad ... I personally went to the address [of the worship building] for visual inspection about 5 times, there is no activity there, I have never seen people there, everything is closed." Golovanov acknowledges that according to the laws of the Russian Federation, the Bible cannot be recognized as extremist material, so Jehovah's Witnesses can read and discuss it together with others.

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    March 18, 2021

    The lawyer is requesting a psychological and psychiatric examination of the key prosecution witness Stanislav Kuznetsky, an FSB officer who portrayed interest in the Bible, whose testimony formed the basis of the criminal case against the believers. Prior to this, two witnesses expressed doubts about Kuznetsky's mental health. The judge refuses to conduct an examination.

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    March 31, 2021

    Prosecution witness Kuznetsky speaks. He testifies from the next room, the door to which is ajar. Among other things, Kuznetsky says that "by the timbre of his voice he determined the hierarchy in the organization." To the question of Yuri Krutyakov: "What wrong have I done to you?" the witness cannot answer anything.

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    April 26, 2021

    Physical evidence is examined, including four Bibles in three different translations. It turns out that none of them is included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials.

    The measure of restraint for believers has been extended until August 17, 2021.

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    May 19, 2021

    In the Chekhov City Court of the Moscow Region, during the debate, the prosecutor requests punishment for four believers: Yuri Krutyakov - 6 years probation, his wife Zinaida and Konstantin Zherebtsov - 2 years probation, Vitaly Nikiforov - 2 years and 3 months probation.

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    May 24, 2021 First Instance Sentence

    Judge of the Chekhov City Court of the Moscow Region Irina Pantela convicts four believers: Yuriy Krutyakov — 6 years with a probationary period of 5 years; Zinaida Krutyakova — 2 years and 3 months with a probationary period of 2 years, Konstantin Zherebtsov — 2 years and 2 months with a probationary period of 2 years, Vitaliy Nikiforov — 2 years with the same probationary period.

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    July 20, 2021
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    January 13, 2022

    The First Court of Cassation of General Jurisdiction, located in Saratov, is considering the cassation appeal of four believers. Konstantin Zherebtsov and Vitaliy Nikiforov are present in the courtroom, while Yuriy and Zinaida Krutyakov participate in the hearing via video link.

    Their fellow believers living in Saratov come to the courthouse to support the accused. After hearing all the participants in the process, the panel of judges leaves the cassation appeal of the believers unsatisfied.

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    May 24, 2023

    Zinaida Krutyakova, Konstantin Zherebtsov and Vitaliy Nikiforov served their main sentences - 2 years and 3 months, 2 years and 2 months, 2 years of suspended sentence, respectively.

    Zinaida's husband Yuriy Krutyakov will continue to serve his suspended sentence.