The wife and fellow believers meet Konstantin Bazhenov near the border with Russia. Ukraine, May 19, 2021


Konstantin Bazhenov, Who Had Served His Sentence for Faith, Deported From Russia to Ukraine

Saratov Region,   Ulyanovsk Region

One of Jehovah's Witnesses Konstantin Bazhenov, who was again detained and sent to a deportation center after his release from the colony, was expelled from Russia, of which he had been a citizen for more than 10 years. On May 19, 2021, the believer arrived in Ukrainian Kramatorsk, where he was met by his wife, Irina, and fellow believers.

“The fact that I was released on parole is a miracle! Although I had the right to parole: I had exemplary behavior and a lot of incentives, there were no penalties ... And yet, until the last moment, there were doubts until I read the court order on release, ”said Konstantin Bazhenov.

Konstantin was born in Veliky Novgorod and, as a child, left for the Ukrainian SSR with his parents. In 2009, he and his wife, Irina, moved to Russia and received citizenship. Before the start of the criminal prosecution, the family lived in Saratov.

In September 2019, the court sentenced six believers, including Konstantin Bazhenov, to imprisonment, considering peaceful discussions of Christian teachings to be extremism. The Saratov Regional Court dismissed the appeal, and Konstantin received 3.5 years in prison. During the served term, the court included 15 months that the believer spent in a pre-trial detention center, and 4 months under the ban on certain actions. For another 15 months, Konstantin Bazhenov was serving his sentence in the colony of Dimitrovgrad. During his imprisonment, the authorities revoked the Russian citizenship of the believer.

According to Konstantin, he had to deal with prejudice on religious grounds in the colony, but this did not happen for long. "After [the administration and other prisoners] looked at my behavior, and when I explained my beliefs, their opinion changed. And even if they did not take my side, I still felt respect, "said the believer.

Konstantin Bazhenov and his wife, Irina. Ukraine, May 19, 2021
Konstantin Bazhenov and his wife, Irina. Ukraine, May 19, 2021

De jure, the sentence imposed on Konstantin Bazhenov expired on July 5, 2021, but in April 2021, the court released him on parole. On May 5, Konstantin was again detained right at the exit from the colony, after which he was taken to the local deportation center. Almost two weeks later, the believer was put in a car and sent to Ukraine.

Together with Konstantin, his wife, Irina, was forced to leave Russia. There were never any complaints from the law enforcement agencies against her, but further separation from her husband turned out to be unthinkable for her. Even during the imprisonment of Constantine in the colony, Irina moved to another city to be closer to her husband.

“When Kostya was in the colony, we were not given visits for 13 months. For the first time since our imprisonment, we met only in February 2021. Sometimes we were able to communicate on the phone. We prayed and sang songs together, ”said Irina Bazhenova, who left Russia a few days earlier than her husband.

So far, the spouses do not know how their life will be built in a new place. They are glad that they will be able to freely profess their beliefs, but they worry about their fellow believers, who are still subjected to religious persecution in Russia.

Konstantin Bazhenov became the second Jehovah's Witness to serve a sentence for his faith and was deported from the country. In January, his fellow believer, a resident of Saratov, Felix Makhammadiev, was expelled from Russia to Uzbekistan. Four more defendants in the case of Bazhenov and others are still in the colony and await release in June and August 2021. In November 2018, the unfounded criminal prosecution of believers was appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.

Case of Bazhenov and Others in Saratov

Case History
In September 2019, Judge Dmitry Larin immediately sent 6 Saratov residents to prison for a term of 2 to 3.5 years just for reading the Bible, singing songs and praying. Since 2017, security forces have been conducting covert surveillance of believers. In the summer of 2018, their homes were searched with banned literature planted. While the investigation was underway, they had to go to a pre-trial detention center, under house arrest and under recognizance not to leave. A year later, despite the absence of victims in the case, the believers were found guilty. Upon arrival at the Orenburg colony, 5 out of 6 convicted believers were beaten by the staff of the institution. Mahammadiev was hospitalized, and the rest were placed in a punishment cell for a while. Saratov prisoners of conscience have mastered various professions in prison. In May 2020, Mahammadiev and Bazhenov were stripped of their Russian citizenship and, after their release, deported from Russia. All 6 believers have already served their sentences. In September 2022, the cassation court dismissed the complaint, and the verdict and the appellate ruling were unchanged.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Saratov 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:
June 9, 2018
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Investigative Department of the Directorate of the FSB of Russia for the Saratov Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
Case History