Case of Stepanov and Baranov in Vologda

Case History

In December 2019, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation initiated a criminal case against two Jehovah’s Witnesses from Vologda. On the same day, searches were conducted in the homes of several believers, and Yuriy Baranov and Nikolay Stepanov were detained. Yuriy spent 1 day in a temporary detention facility and almost 3 months under house arrest; Nikolay spent 4 days in a temporary detention facility, then 8 months in a pre-trial detention center, after which he was placed under house arrest for 43 days. The believers were accused of organizing the activity of an extremist organization. According to the investigation, their criminal actions consisted of “arranging meetings and organizing religious talks and worship”. In January 2022, the case went to court. In September, Baranov was given a 4-year suspended sentence, and Stepanov was sentenced to 4 years in a penal colony. The appeal resulted in a more lenient sentence for Stepanov; his prison term was replaced with a suspended sentence. Baranov’s sentence remained unchanged.

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    December 19, 2019

    Yuri Baranov is detained and interrogated as a suspect. A criminal case has been initiated.

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    December 20, 2019

    The Vologda City Court chooses a measure of restraint for Yuriy Baranov in the form of house arrest until February 18, 2020.

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    December 21, 2019

    The court sends 45-year-old Nikolai Stepanov into custody.

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    December 24, 2019 Search
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    December 25, 2019

    Yuriy is charged with committing a crime under Article 282.2 (1).

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    February 17, 2020

    The Vologda City Court extends Yuriy Baranov's measure of restraint in the form of house arrest until March 18, 2020.

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    March 12, 2020

    The term of the preliminary investigation in the criminal case is extended until May 19, 2020.

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    March 16, 2020

    An open court session is being held in the Vologda City Court.

    The court is considering the petition of the senior investigator A. A. Nesterov to extend the believer's detention under house arrest. He points to "the gravity of the crime, the ability of the accused to escape, put pressure on witnesses and obstruct the establishment of the truth in a criminal case."

    Baranov and his lawyer are petitioning for mitigation of the measure of restraint.

    Judge Alexei Koltakov takes into account the believer's need for treatment and its positive characteristics.

    The court refuses to satisfy the investigator's petition and chooses a preventive measure for Yuriy in the form of a ban on certain actions until May 18, 2020. Yuri must appear in court in a timely manner, he is forbidden to communicate with persons involved in a criminal case. You can use communication and the Internet only in emergency situations. In order to comply with the regulations, audiovisual and electronic means of control may be used.

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    May 14, 2020

    Judge of the Vologda City Court Pavel Vorobyov refuses to extend the term of the ban on certain actions to Yuri Baranov, since the prohibitions imposed on him by law are valid until they are canceled by the court. This means that the measure of restraint for Baranov has not been canceled - all restrictions will remain in force until the court cancels them at the request of the investigator, Baranov or on its own initiative.

    Thus, the latest court decision does not improve the situation of Yuriy Baranov, whose illnesses have worsened due to criminal prosecution. In April, Baranov was hospitalized, but even after undergoing treatment, his health is still weakened.

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    May 15, 2020

    The court leaves Nikolay Stepanov in custody.

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    May 18, 2020

    The ban on certain actions established by the Vologda City Court for Yuri Baranov is expiring.

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    May 19, 2020

    The senior investigator of the first department for the investigation of especially important cases, A. A. Nesterov, chooses a milder measure of restraint in relation to Yuri Baranov in the form of a written undertaking not to leave the place and proper behavior.

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    June 3, 2020

    The Vologda Regional Court upholds the extension of Stepanov's detention until July 18.

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    July 16, 2020

    Judge Petrov of the Vologda City Court extends his detention until 18.09.2020.

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    August 13, 2020

    The Vologda Regional Court softens Nikolai Stepanov's preventive measure. After 238 days in custody, he is placed under house arrest.

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    September 25, 2020

    The Vologda Regional Court is considering the appeal of Nikolay Stepanov against the decision of the Vologda City Court of 15.09.2020, on the basis of which the believer's detention under house arrest was extended until November 18, 2020.

    The appellate court releases Nikolay from house arrest and changes his measure of restraint to a milder one - a ban on certain actions. The accused is still not entitled to use means of communication. Nikolay spent 43 days under house arrest.

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    February 8, 2021

    Andrey Nesterov, an investigator for especially important cases, recharges 46-year-old Nikolai Stepanov with a crime under Part 1 of Article 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (organization of extremist activity) in a new edition.

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    January 10, 2022

    The case against the believers is submitted to the Vologda City Court and later appointed to Judge Yelena Golovanova.

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    April 7, 2022 Hearing in a court of the first instance

    8 people come to the court hearing to support the believers. The prosecutor reads out the indictment.

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    September 1, 2022 Prosecutor requested punishment Final statement

    The prosecutor asks for punishment: for Nikolai Stepanov - 7 years in prison, for Yuri Baranov - 7 years probation. The defendants make their final statements.

    Yuri Baranov says: "The manifestation of enmity, violence and hatred is incompatible with my views. I respect representatives of other religions and nationalities. I don't understand why I'm accused of committing a crime. Obviously, the only reason is faith."

    Nikolay Stepanov emphasizes: "Despite the fact that we [Jehovah's Witnesses] live in different countries, speak different languages, unity reigns among us in the worship of God. We do our best to ensure that there are no social, ethnic and racial divisions among us, we love God and each other."

    The judge agrees to the presence of listeners during the announcement of the verdict, which will be held on September 5.

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    September 5, 2022
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    September 13, 2022

    It becomes known that Nikolai Stepanov, convicted for his faith, was placed in pre-trial detention center-2 in the city of Vologda. There he will expect the continuation of the transfer to the place of serving the sentence.

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    November 9, 2022 Court of Appeal

    A hearing on the appeal of Nikolay Stepanov and Yuriy Baranov is underway. 30 people come to support the believers.

    Nikolay Stepanov makes his last word, insisting on complete innocence. He says that he was condemned only for believing in God.

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    November 10, 2022