Not only does this bring to more than 1100 the number of searches and seizures the Russian authorities have carried out against Jehovah’s Witnesses since 2017 when Moscow banned their activity, but in Voronezh, those who carried out the raids trumpeted with pride what they have done.
That suggests that really dark days are ahead for the followers of this religious denomination, given that such expressions will likely spark the Russian government’s repressive organs to compete with each other to see who can do even more and thus win the approval and support of the powers that be at the center.
According to the Voronezh investigative committee and local branch of the interior ministry, the raids were necessary because members of the group, knowing about the ban on the activity of the Jehovah’s Witnesses were involved in activities “directed at continuing their activities” and thus needed to be stopped.
OMON troops armed with machine guns swarmed through cities and towns the oblast. None were wearing counter-pandemic masks and so spread the infection by their actions even as they spread terror through the population. They broke into apartments, forced people to the floor, and in at least some cases beat their targets.
The Russian siloviki confiscated Bibles, diaries, photographs, computers, and telephones. They even took away collections of poetry by Bulat Okudzhava and Iosif Brodsky, only to claim that they had uncovered “a significant quantity of literature prohibited for distribution on the territory of Russia.”[highlight]More than 50 people were detained, and ten still remain under arrest.[/highlight] Those released said they were subject to verbal and in a few cases physical abuse by their captors. Because this action did not take place in Moscow and because the phones of the Witnesses were confiscated, it has been difficult for activists in the center or abroad to track what is going on.
Unfortunately, many organizations which have denounced other forms of repression under Putin in recent days have not spoken out about this attack on a religious group. Unless people do speak out, there is a great danger that this escalation of state violence against the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia will only grow.
The New York office of the Jehovah’s Witnesses says that this raid is larger than earlier mass raids in the Transbaikal in February 2020, Sochi in October 2019, and Nizhny Novgorod in July 2019. (For background on this disturbing pattern, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/05/jehovahs-witnesses-say-russian.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/10/persecution-of-jehovahs-witnesses.html, and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/08/putin-regimes-persecution-of-jehovahs.html.)
- Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses continues in Russia despite Putin’s statements (2019)
- Moscow’s campaign against Jehovah’s Witnesses a threat to all believers in Russia (2017)
- Putin follows Hitler and Stalin in seeking to repress Jehovah’s Witnesses
- With Donbas occupation, Russia brought religious persecution alien to Ukraine: report
- Donbas occupiers doing to Ukrainian Church what they accuse Kyiv of doing to Moscow one