Russia Convicts another Jehovah’s Witness

This is the second conviction in the country

Sergei Skrynnikov, a Jehovah’s Witness, was found complicit in participating in extremist organizational activities. The April 1, 2019 order by Oryol district court in southern Russia ordered the defendant to pay approximately $5,348. The judge did not order any prison time, even though the prosecution wanted detention running to three years. The same court earlier sentenced Dennis Christensen, a Danish citizen and Jehovah’s Witness, to six years incarceration. The charges brought forward during both times were nearly identical: Christensen was also accused of organizing extremist organizational activities. Skrynnikov became the second Jehovah’s Witnesses to be convicted in Russian courts.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses organization decried the Oryol district court verdict. According to Paul Gillies, its spokesperson, Skrynnikov became yet another victim of Moscow’s sustained campaign to destroy the peaceful religious activity conducted by Jehovah’s Witnesses. He went on to claim this conviction, when included with several other incidents of same nature, represents further proof of Soviet-style repression making a comeback in Russia.

Skrynnikov is married and has one daughter. He and Nina, his wife, help their daughter and their son-in-law with their five children. Other than looking after five young people, they are also primary caregivers for Nina’s elderly parents. When summoned to court, Skrynnikov gave an impassioned speech to defend his faith. He highlighted his present plight and said most would despair during such times. However, he views the situation from the eyes of a Jehovah’s Witnesses. “If God permits me to be convicted, it means that I need to view these three years not as a punitive sentence but as a special assignment to serve in a new location! So I do not despair,” said Skrynnikov.

Moscow has always regarded Jehovah’s Witnesses with more than a smidgen of suspicion. It has branded the Christian movement as a totalitarian sect and went to the extent of affixing the organization with the extremist tag in 2017. The Russian Government also ordered its dissolution. The beginning of 2019 witnessed the Kremlin ordering raids on homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Russian members. Currently, there are 170 Jehovah’s Witnesses’ facing a multitude of charges in the country.

President Vladimir Putin said in December 2018 that Jehovah’s Witnesses should not be viewed as terrorists.

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