Actions of Law Enforcement Officers

In the City of Balakovo, New Searches Were Carried Out at the Homes of Jehovah's Witnesses. Previously, Security Forces Planted Banned Publications in Order to Incriminate Local Believer

Saratov Region

In January 2023, in the Saratov region, FSB officers raided the homes of five of Jehovah's Witnesses—four women aged 39 to 69 and a 64-year-old man.

The first search took place on January 3, and it was directed by Major Matrosov. Lieutenant Ponomaryov also participated in it; the resident of the home recognized him as the one who had conducted surveillance on her since November of the previous year. The security forces confiscated the Synodal translation of the Bible from the family. They also asked about school history notebooks belonging to the believers' daughter. Security forces were especially interested in written notes about the Israelites leaving Egypt and about the execution of Christ.

On January 20, four more searches took place. During one of them, the owner of the apartment was escorted home from the clinic. Nothing was seized from her home as a result of the investigative measures.

During the search of the home of a married couple who are believers, the following was seized: a tablet, a 25-year anniversary card, a Bible, and a notebook containing the addresses of relatives.

Law enforcement officers came to another woman's home in search of her son. They did not seize anything, but they explained that she would be a witness in this case. The search was led by investigator Aleksandr Prydatko, who had previously initiated a criminal case against five of Jehovah's Witnesses from Balakovo. At the moment, the men are prohibited from certain activities.

The city of Balakovo is notorious for attempts to fabricate criminal cases against Jehovah's Witnesses. Back in 2015, believers captured video evidence of banned literature being planted in the building where worship services were held.

In June 2022, the European Court reiterated that Article 9 of the European Convention "protects the right of believers to meet peacefully in order to worship in the manner prescribed by their religion". (§·267)

The case of Mavrin and Others in Balakovo

Case History
In May-June 2021, the residents of the city of Balakovo were under surveillance, their conversations were recorded. Considering peaceful discussions of the Bible to be extremism, the FSB opened a criminal case and received permission to search the homes of believers. A month later, security forces invaded 8 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Aleksey Bogatov, Vladimir Mavrin, Yevgeniy Fomashin, Andrey Murych and Sergey Tyurin were placed in a temporary detention facility after night interrogations. Two days later, they were imprisoned in a pre-trial detention center 170 km from home. The court repeatedly extended the period of stay of believers in the pre-trial detention center, as a result of which they spent 10 months in custody. In January 2023, the court ruled to change the measure of restraint for believers to a ban on certain actions. The trial of the believers began in June of the same year.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Saratov Region
Suspected of:
According to the investigation, "they resumed and organized the activities of the local religious unit [of Jehovah's Witnesses] on the territory of the city of Balakovo, expressed in the convening of meetings, the implementation of preaching activities, ... fundraising under the guise of donations"
Court case number:
February 11, 2022
Current case stage:
the verdict entered into force
Branch of the Federal Security Service of Russia in the Saratov Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (1)
Court case number:
Court of First Instance:
Балаковский районный суд Саратовской области
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Наталья Никитинская
Case History