Tatyana Galkevich and Valentina Vladimirova in the courtroom on the day the verdict was announced, February 14, 2024

Unjust Verdicts

A court in Smolensk gave two elderly women a 2-year suspended sentence — they "participated in joint prayers to Jehovah and discussion of Bible interpretations"

Smolensk Region

Tatyana Galkevich, 64, and Valentina Vladimirova, 67, Jehovah's Witnesses from Smolensk, received 2 years of suspended sentence with restriction of freedom for a year each for their faith. This decision was made by the Industrialniy District Court of Smolensk on February 14, 2024. The believers deny the guilt of extremism, and the verdict is considered groundless.

"Jehovah's Witnesses, as law-abiding citizens, have stopped using premises for worship, but they cannot stop worshiping God and keeping silent about the beautiful Bible truths," Vladimirova said. Galkevich commented on the process as follows: "The example of Jesus Christ himself helps me ... not to be embittered under the circumstances, when I am unjustifiably persecuted and terribly labeled an extremist."

After searches in May 2019, both believers ended up behind bars. They spent six months in a pre-trial detention center, then they were transferred to house arrest: Tatyana for nine months, and Valentina for two years and four months. The believers were accused of participating in the activities of an extremist organization. The investigation was conducted by the Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Smolensk Region.

The Industrial District Court returned the case to the prosecutor's office twice because of violations of the law in it. The final hearing began in April 2023, the trial was led by Judge Lyudmila Kovalyova. During the proceedings, Galkevich and Vladimirova repeatedly stressed that the case materials only indicate their religious affiliation with Jehovah's Witnesses. At the same time, they do not contain any extremist actions or statements. The perplexity of believers was also caused by a religious expertise carried out by a graduate of the Orthodox Theological Academy, who is a candidate of theology, specializing in the "eldership of Valaam ascetics."

Valentina Vladimirova and Tatiana Galkevich can appeal the verdict in the court of appeal.

In the Smolensk region, six more of Jehovah's Witnesses faced persecution by the authorities. Five of them were sentenced to suspended sentences ranging from six to six and a half years.

Case of Vladimirova and Galkevich in Smolensk

Case History
In May 2019, the Ministry of Internal Affairs opened a criminal case for faith against pensioners from Smolensk Valentina Vladimirova and Tatyana Galkevich. The women were accused of “participating in joint prayers to Jehovah and discussing interpretations of the Bible,” which the investigation interprets as participation in extremist activities. Their homes were searched, and women were taken into custody. Galkevich spent six months behind bars and about nine months under house arrest. Vladimirova also spent six months in a pre-trial detention center, and then almost 2.5 years under house arrest. In October 2020, the case went to court, but it was immediately returned to the prosecutor. The religious expertise of the case was carried out by a graduate of the Orthodox Theological Academy. After 2 months, the retrial of the case began, but in March 2022 it was returned to the prosecutor’s office for revision. In April 2023, the case went to court again, and in February 2024, a sentence of 2 years suspended was passed.

Persons in case

Criminal case

Smolensk Region
Suspected of:
According to the investigation she “participated in joint prayers to ‘Jehovah’ and discussion of the interpretation of the Bible ... provided her apartment for holding secret meetings” (from the indictment)
Court case number:
May 14, 2019
Current case stage:
Investigating Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia for the Smolensk Region
Articles of Criminal Code of Russian Federation:
282.2 (2)
Court case number:
Court of First Instance:
Промышленный районный суд г. Смоленска
Judge of the Court of First Instance:
Людмила Ковалева
Case History