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Kolyma 2.0. The Land of Trampled Freedom Once Again Becomes a Hotbed of Repression

Magadan Region

The memorial “Mask of Sorrow” erected in this region notorious for the Gulag labor camps recalls the millions of victims of political repression during the years of the USSR. However, dramatic events unfold here again, breaking the lives of innocent people. Three-minute video.

In May 2018, the Magadan FSB opened a criminal case for their faith under Article 282.2(1) against 13 local residents. Among them are Sergey Agadzhanov, Lyubov Asatryan, Galina Dergacheva, Sergey Yerkin, Evgeny Zyablov, Inna Kardakova, Konstantin Petrov, Ivan Puida, Viktor Revyakin, Mikhail Solntsev, Oksana Solntseva, Irina Khvostova, Anastasia Chibisova.

"The case was opened against four people," says one of the accused, 34-year-old Konstantin Petrov. But now they have combined all this into one thing with 13 people.

Konstantin Petrov has been under investigation for two years. During this time, he managed to serve 2 months in a pre-trial detention center and 8 months under house arrest. It all started on May 30, 2018, when mass searches took place in the homes of peaceful believers in Magadan. He recalls: "I opened the door and quickly found myself on the floor. Immediately screams, noise. They ran in masks, with weapons, put me on the floor and sat on top. They put a bag over my head, threw it into a car and drove me to the FSB building."

According to Konstantin, the security forces tried to force him to cooperate with the investigation, threatening him with serious problems if he refused. "They exerted emotional pressure in order to force us to accept their point of view," says Konstantin Petrov.- We chose a measure of restraint in the form of detention."

As a result, Konstantin Petrov and three other believers ended up in the Magadan pre-trial detention center. Neither the investigation nor the court took into account Konstantin's state of health.

Valentina Shafurina, mother of Konstantin Petrov: "He has health problems, he does not digest gluten and lactose. At first, he was covered with a rash. Konstantin Petrov: "I need special food, and it is clear that there is no such food in the pre-trial detention center, my health was deteriorating."

The inhuman treatment to which Konstantin and other believers were subjected was the result of a criminal case initiated under the article "Organization of the activities of an extremist organization."

Konstantin Petrov: "The investigation is still ongoing, the investigator is collecting some information. According to him, the investigation will not end soon.

As in hundreds of other criminal cases against Jehovah's Witnesses throughout Russia, in the case of Konstantin Petrov there is no information about the victims and the damage caused.

Konstantin Petrov: "What did we do wrong? If we are believers and just call ourselves Jehovah's Witnesses, is that already a crime?"

Valentina Shafurina: "Will they really be imprisoned? I don't know. I can't believe that you can be imprisoned for this."

Konstantin signed a recognizance not to leave. And although he is free, criminal prosecution and imposed restrictions disrupt the life of the family and deprive him of the opportunity to support his elderly mother.

Valentina Shafurina: "I also called to myself, saying: "Maybe you will come to me?" They saved up for tickets to meet us. We haven't met, and I don't know when we'll meet now."

The memorial to the victims of political repression was created as a monument to the past. But for many believers, the "Mask of Sorrow" is becoming an increasingly clear reflection of the present.

The Case of Puyda and Others in Magadan

Case History
After a series of searches in Magadan in May 2018, Konstantin Petrov, Yevgeniy Zyablov and Sergey Yerkin were placed in a pretrial detention center. On the same day in Khabarovsk, the home of Ivan Puyda was searched. He was arrested and then taken 1600 km away to a pretrial detention center in Magadan. The believers spent 2 to 4 months behind bars, and then were placed under house arrest. In March 2019, the FSB conducted another series of searches. The number of defendants in the case reached 13, including 6 women, and elderly. The investigator regarded the holding of peaceful meetings for worship as organizing, participating and financing the activity of an extremist organization. In nearly 4 years of investigation, the case against 13 believers grew to 66 volumes. It went to court in March 2022. At the hearings, it became clear that the case was based on the testimony of a secret witness – an FSB informant, who secretly recorded peaceful meetings for worship. In March 2024, the believers were given suspended sentences from 3 to 7 years.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Magadan Region
Suspected of:
according to the investigation, together with others he conducted religious services, which is interpreted as “organising the activity of an extremist organisation” (with reference to the decision of the Russian Supreme Court on the liquidation of all 396 registered organisations of Jehovah’s Witnesses)
Court case number:
May 30, 2018
Current case stage:
verdict did not take effect
Investigative Department of the Directorate of the FSB of Russia for the Magadan Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2), 282.2 (1), 282.3 (1)
Court case number:
1–6/2024 (1-12/2023, 1-220/2022)
Court of First Instance:
Магаданский городской суд Магаданской области
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Татьяна Белаева
Case History