Enjoying ad-free content?
Since July 1, 2024, we have disabled all ads to improve your reading experience.
This commitment costs us $10,000 a month. Your support can help us fill the gap.
Support us
Our journalism is banned in Russia. We need your help to keep providing you with the truth.

Russian Court in Crimea Jails Jehovah’s Witness for 6.5 Years

The Jehovah’s Witnesses have been banned in Russia as an extremist organization since 2017. Michael Tapp / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

A court in Russia-annexed Crimea said Monday it has jailed a Jehovah’s Witness for six and a half years on charges of organizing an extremist group in the country's latest prison sentence against members of the Christian denomination.

The Sevastopol-based Gagarin district court said in a statement that it found the defendant guilty and sent him to a prison colony. It is one of a litany of sentences handed out to Jehovah’s Witnesses since Russia banned the group as an extremist organization in 2017.

“After his release, he will also be banned from engaging in educational activities, speeches, publications and posting on the internet for seven years,” the court said.

The religious group identified its adherent as Viktor Stashevsky, born in 1966, and called his sentence the “harshest” yet against one of its members in Russian-annexed Crimea.

According to a statement on the group’s website, the state prosecutor had asked the judge to sentence Stashevsky to seven years in prison.

Stashevsky’s indictment, which the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia website said contained the testimony of a secret witness, called him an “ideological inspirer of the extremist organization.”

If I cease to be Jehovah's Witness, there will be no complaints against me and all charges will be dropped. But [...] I have no intention of giving up my faith in God,” Stashevsky was quoted as saying in his last plea.

According to the court’s statement, the defense has 10 days to appeal the prison sentence.

Stashevsky is at least the third Crimean Jehovah's Witness to be sentenced to at least 6 years in prison over the past year.

Rights groups have criticized Russia’s crackdown against the Christian denomination, known for door-to-door preaching and rejection of military service, as a violation of religious freedom. 

The U.S. State Department condemned Russia’s crackdown on Jehovah’s Witnesses “in the strongest possible terms” last month.

… we have a small favor to ask. As you may have heard, The Moscow Times, an independent news source for over 30 years, has been unjustly branded as a "foreign agent" by the Russian government. This blatant attempt to silence our voice is a direct assault on the integrity of journalism and the values we hold dear.

We, the journalists of The Moscow Times, refuse to be silenced. Our commitment to providing accurate and unbiased reporting on Russia remains unshaken. But we need your help to continue our critical mission.

Your support, no matter how small, makes a world of difference. If you can, please support us monthly starting from just $2. It's quick to set up, and you can be confident that you're making a significant impact every month by supporting open, independent journalism. Thank you.

paiment methods
Not ready to support today?
Remind me later.

Read more