Search of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Irkutsk. Source: screenshot from the video of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Irkutsk Region. October 2021

Crimes Against Believers

Believers From Irkutsk Talk About Torture During a Raid on Jehovah's Witnesses

Irkutsk Region

During the mass searches in Irkutsk, which took place in the homes of believers on October 4, 2021, armed soldiers of the "Grom" special forces and the Russian Guard beat and tortured 31-year-old Anatoliy Razdobarov and 23-year-old Nikolai Merinov, as well as their wives.

Greta and Anatoliy Razdobarovs came to the village of Novolisikha in the Irkutsk region to visit their parents. Early in the morning the security forces broke into the house, knocked Anatoliy to the floor, handcuffed him, kicked him in the head and kidneys. After that, they began to lift the believer from the floor by the hands chained behind his back, causing severe pain. Then law enforcement officers simulated rape, trying to stick a glass bottle between his buttocks. Anatoliy was not allowed to get up for a long time, until he finally began to feel sick. Only after that the torture stopped and he was allowed to stand up. The security forces demanded that the believer unlock his smartphone, confess to crimes that he did not commit, and incriminate fellow believers.

According to Anatoliy himself, his wife, Greta, was dragged by the security forces into the next room by the hair, handcuffed behind his back, and repeatedly pushed. Only 30 minutes later, Greta was allowed to get dressed. The believer was frightened by the fact that "in the female colony it is worse than in the male colony."

The search at the Razdobarovs' house lasted more than 8 hours. All this time, Greta's sister with her husband and two young children were in the house. A large amount of money received from the sale of the land plot was seized from Greta's parents. Then the Razdobarovs were released. The next day, they underwent a medical examination, during which doctors recorded multiple bruises and abrasions.

At about the same time, the security forces invaded the home of the Merinovs. They hit the head of the family, Nikolay, in the face with a heavy blunt object, breaking his tooth. The believer fell to the floor and lost consciousness. When Nikolay came to his senses, a special forces soldier was sitting on him and inflicted many blows.

Nikolay's wife, 27-year-old Liliya Merinova, was thrown to the floor by the security forces, dragged by her feet into another room and subjected to physical violence. After the search, the security forces took Nikolay away for interrogation, he was released late in the evening, after which the spouses underwent a medical examination and recorded injuries.

During searches of other believers, the security forces also displayed unmotivated aggression. In a number of cases, at the beginning of the assault, the special forces knocked out the windows, although the doors in the houses were not locked. Residents were not allowed to dress despite the fact that frosty air entered the house — the temperature outside that morning reached -1 ° Celsius. According to the believers, one of the special forces soldiers explained the harsh actions by the fact that they received an order: the assault must be accompanied by an assault. “According to the investigator, the order to carry out the raid came so rudely directly from Moscow,” said one of the local residents, who was also searched. “Later, the special forces officers realized that we were peaceful. They calmed down and even showed sympathy. Some time after the start of the search, they were already playing games on their phones, someone even dozing. "

“Unjustified cruelty towards peaceful, non-resisting believers is a sad continuation of the brutal repressions of the Soviet era,”— says Yaroslav Sivulsky from the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses. “In 2019, a roundup of believers in Surgut turned into fastidious torture, in 2020 believers in Chita reported beatings and torture, after that a massive raid in Voronezh again led to beatings and torture. "

Under Russian law, such flagrant abuse of power is a criminal offense. In addition, the Russian Federation is subject to several international bodies that protect people from torture. The Razdobarovs and Merinovs will use all available legal remedies, both domestic and international, in connection with these crimes. The believers filed a complaint against the actions of law enforcement officials with the Investigative Committee and the Prosecutor's Office, and also informed the Ombudsman for Human Rights in the Russian Federation.

The Case of Martynov and Others in Irkutsk

Case History
In October 2021, a series of searches took place in Irkutsk and the Irkutsk Region, which were accompanied by assault and brutal beatings of peaceful the believers. Jehovah's Witnesses Yaroslav Kalin, Sergey Kosteyev, Nikolay Martynov, Mikhail Moysh, Aleksey Solnechny, Andrey Tolmachev, and Sergey Vasilyev were accused of extremism only for their faith. After searches and interrogations, they were detained; six of them were sent to a pretrial detention center and one was placed under house arrest. Two months later, law enforcement officers conducted two more searches: in the village of Askiz (Republic of Khakassia) in the home of Denis Sarazhakov and in the city of Mezhdurechensk (Kemerovo Region) in the home of Igor Popov. Both of them were arrested, taken more than 1500 km to Irkutsk and placed in custody. In December 2022, the case of the believers went to court. In January 2024, the court sentenced them to various terms of imprisonment in a penal colony, from 3 to 7 years, satisfying the prosecutor’s request.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Irkutsk Region
Suspected of:
being "adherents of the religious association 'Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia', organized collective religious services, consisting of sequential performances of songs and prayers to Jehovah God, study of articles" (from the decision to bring as an accused)
Court case number:
October 4, 2021
Current case stage:
verdict did not take effect
2nd Investigation Department of the 3rd Department for the Investigation of Particularly Important Cases of the Investigative Directorate of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation in the Irkutsk Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1), 282.3 (1), 282.2 (2)
Court case number:
1-6/2024 (1-105/2023; 1-857/2022)
Court of First Instance:
Октябрьский районный суд г. Иркутска
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Андрей Славинский
Case History