Crimes Against Believers

A Raid on Jehovah's Witnesses Took Place in Samara. Three Were Sent to a Pre-Trial Detention Center, One Reported Torture During a Search

Samara Region

On December 15, 2021, in Samara, security forces searched 10 homes of local residents believed to be Jehovah's Witnesses and interrogated 16 people. Denis Kuzyanin, Sergey Palasenko and Nikolay Vasilyev were detained, and on December 16, the Samara District Court arrested them for 2 months.

In some cases, having burst into a dwelling, law enforcement officers behaved rudely and used violence. A 23-year-old believer said that in response to his refusal to provide the password for his laptop, the security forces began putting a heated kettle on his hands and pouring hot water on his arms, legs and neck until witnesses came. The man was forced to lie on the floor for several hours. In addition, he was forced to sign the protocol, using brute physical force against him. The believer was threatened with long prison terms, physical violence and further torture. The search lasted about 7 hours, then he was taken to the FSB department for questioning. The believer was treated with respect there.

Update. At 6:20 am, the security forces broke down the door of the apartment where IT specialist Nikolay Vasiliyev and two of his fellow believers live. According to the believer, there were at least 8 people who broke into the house together with the FSB investigator. One of the security officers - in uniform and mask - took out a pistol and, pointing it at the residents, ordered them to lie down on the floor. When the believer complied with the order, the law enforcement officer hit him hard on the inside of the thigh with a boot, so that he left a hematoma on Nikolay’s body. He was handcuffed, forced to his knees and, by turning on the video, ordered to read aloud the search warrant. Then the believer received several blows to the head. During the beating, he fell and hit his forehead on the edge of the table, after which he was photographed.

In another case, the search took place early in the morning. At 6:20 riot policemen came to the communal apartment where the spouses — Jehovah's Witnesses live. FSB captain Sergey Smolin conducted a search as part of a criminal case against Palasenko, Kuzyanin and Vasilyev, which was initiated the day before. The spouses were ordered to put their phones on a table in the center of the room, recorded all incoming calls and were asked to answer them. The investigator showed the spouses screenshots taken during the video conferences, and also convinced them that law enforcement officers read the correspondence of believers in the Viber messenger in real time. The search of the house and car of the couple lasted 7 hours, after which they were taken to the FSB department, where they were interrogated separately from each other.

One of the searches took place in a family with a small child who was treated to candy by police officers.

The Samara Region has become the 70th region of Russia where criminal cases have been initiated against Jehovah's Witnesses (according to the Constitution, there are 85 subjects in Russia in total).

Despite the explanations of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, law enforcement officers continue to prosecute civilians for practicing their religion, ignoring the fact that the divine services of Jehovah's Witnesses, their joint rituals and ceremonies do not constitute a crime in themselves.

The Case of Polosenko and Others in Samara

Case History
In December 2021, at least 10 homes of Jehovah's Witnesses were searched in Samara. In one of the apartments, the security forces tortured and beat believers. Three men were arrested and taken into custody. An investigator of the FSB of Russia initiated a criminal case against Sergey Polosenko, Denis Kuzyanin, Nikolay Vasiliyev and Aram Danielyan, who was detained and sent to a pretrial detention center three weeks later, on charges of continuing the activity of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia in the Samara Region. After about 300 days in detention, the believers were released from custody under a ban on certain actions. In April 2023, the case went to court. In January 2024, the prosecutor requested that the believers each be sentenced to 9 years in a penal colony. At the same hearing, the court sentenced them to 7 years imprisonment. In May, the court of appeal upheld the ruling.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Samara Region
Court case number:
December 14, 2021
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Federal Security Service of Russia in the Samara Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
1-7/2024 (1-105/2023)
Court of First Instance:
Самарский районный суд г. Самары
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Дмитрий Дерунов
Case History