Jehovah's Witnesses lose property in St. Petersburg


Largest congress hall to be given to Almazov Medical Center

Interfax Severo-zapad, 25 December 2017


The administration of the Almazov Northwest Federal Medical Research Center intends to reequip the former large space for Jehovah's Witnesses' worship services on Kolomyazh Prospect of St. Petersburg for educational purposes, Interfax was told on Monday in the center's structure.


"There is a pilot project according to which, following the president's order, it is planned to establish a scientific and educational area on the base of the building at 21 Kolomyazh Prospect," the source said. He said that the specifications of the building do not permit its use for medical purposes but it is suitable for conducting educational lectures.


According to information of the website of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, the opening of the center for conducting religious meetings of Jehovah's Witnesses at 21 Kolomyazh Prospect was held in September 1999. The building, built in accordance with the plan of Finnish architect Helenios Osmo Ilmari, was used as a center for conducting meetings.


As reported in a publication of the society on 15 July 2015, the liturgical hall has a space of more than 1,400 square meters and on days of congresses could accommodate 1,600 persons. According to information of the website, the center has the largest restroom in the city, equipped, inter alia, for people with disabilities. There also are ramps for the disabled at the entrance to the building and there are elevators in the very center.


On 14 December 2017, the website of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia reported that "about 40 personnel of various agencies, including the Ministry for Emergencies, seized and subsequently sealed the enormous liturgical building near the Pionerskaya metro station in St. Petersburg." The report notes that the last worship service in the building was held on 11 April 2017.


An informed source told Interfax that the Russian representation of Jehovah's Witnesses had 55 articles of real estate located in St. Petersburg with an assessed value of more than 2.1 billion rubles. These articles occupy territory of 190,000 square meters.


"Now not one of these buildings is being used by members of this religious organization for conducting its activity. There are no representatives of the organization there. If they were to be found there under the flag of this organization, that would automatically constitute the essence of a criminal violation, since the organization was banned in Russia by a court decision," the news agency's interlocutor explained.


"The court turned over 16 buildings to the state that previously belonged to the religious organization in the village of Solnechnoe. All the remaining property will in the future also be made the property of state agencies. Interested state agencies will fill out the necessary documents in the established procedure through Rosimushchestvo and the Russian Ministry of Justice, which originally filed a lawsuit for prohibiting the activity of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. A decision regarding its future use will be made for each building," the source added.


As reported earlier, the religious organization's property on the banks of the Finnish Gulf has an assessed value of 800 million rubles and was seized for government use by a decision of the Sestroresk district court of St. Petersburg. As reported by the United Press Service of the courts of the northern capital, the market value of the confiscated property is estimated at two billion rubles.


The reason for the legal proceedings was an illegal transaction of the legal entity of the religious organization, the "Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia." As a result of the transaction, the complex of the property in the village of Solnechnoe of the Kurort district of St. Petersburg was transferred to the disposal of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, which is registered in New York.


On 20 April 2017, the Supreme Court of Moscow, on the basis of a lawsuit of the Russian Ministry of Justice, found the Russian Jehovah's Witnesses to be an extremist organization and it prohibited its activity on Russian territory. "The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania" is the principal legal entity used by Jehovah's Witnesses throughout the world. (tr. by PDS, posted 26 December 2017)

Related articles:
Russian law enforcement descends on Jehovah's Witnesses' property
December 14, 2017
Court endorses confiscation of Jehovah's Witnesses' headquarters
December 7, 2017

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