Russia to retaliate against U.S. defense of Jehovah's Witnesses


Znak, 11 September 2019


Russia will enlarge the restricted lists on entry of citizens of the U.S.A. in response to Washingrton's imposition yesterday of sanctions against personnel of the S.K.R. [Investigative Committee] for Surgut, Kommersant reports. Vladimir Ermolaev and Stepan Tkach fell onto the American black list on suspicion of their participation in torture of members of the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses (forbidden in the RF).


In the opinion of the deputy head of the Russian MID [Ministry of Foreign Affairs], Sergei Riabkov, the new sanctions are a continuation of America's "failed line that has completely discredited itself." The deputy minister declared that Russia never will "bend" under the "pressure of sanctions." "And of course we will expand in a corresponding fashion our restriction lists on entry of American citizens into our country," TASS quotes the diplomat.


As reported previously, in February of this year followers of the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses reported torture and abuse that they said they were subjected to in the building of the Surgut department of the SKR.


The believers described how they were suffocated with bags, doused with water, zapped with electric shockers in the crotch, threatened with sexual violence, and also humiliated on the basis of ethnic and religious identity.


According to the version of the investigation department of the SKR, the Jehovists who were suspected of extremism put up "active resistance" during their arrest, which was the reason for the use on them of "martial approaches," because of which they received injuries in the form of abrasions and bruises. The traces of electric burns were called "imitations" by the investigators. The U.S.A. imposed sanctions against two officers of the SKR of Surgut because of the torture of the Jehovah's Witnesses.


In mid-June, attention to the account of torture in Surgut was given by the Russian ombudsman, Tatiana Moskalkov. While she was in Yugra, she met with believers and promised that their case would be personally dealt with by the head of the SKR, Alexander Bastrykin.


In mid-August, a delegation of the Council on Human Rights, led by the director Mikhail Fedotov, visited cities of the KhMAO [Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District], including Surgut, where residents en masse addressed the public activists with complaints about torture on the part of security forces. Citing the results of these meetings, a member of the council, Andrei Babushkin, declared that "Surgut is the Russian capital of torture," and Fedotov promised to include in the presidential report the account of the torture of the Surgut devotees of the Jehovah's Witnesses.


Yesterday the U.S. Department of State imposed personal sanctions against Ermolaev and Tkach. "The department has credible information that Ermolaev and Tkach were participants in the torture and/or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment of Jehovah's Witnesses in Surgut in Russia," the statement of the U.S. Department of State says.


The United States calls the Kremlin to cease "the unjust campaign against Jehovah's Witnesses and to immediately release more than 200 persons" who at the present time are detained because of their religious views. The U.S.A. also declared the necessity of bringing employees of the SKR of Surgut to accountability. (tr. by PDS, posted 16 September 2019)



Following M.I.D., Peskov promises sanctions against State Department, which closed off entry into U.S.A. by Surgut security officers

Znak, 11 September 2019


The imposition by Washington of sanctions against two officers of the regional department of the SKR in Surgut is a continuation of a destructive policy and Moscow will make an appropriate response to it. This was declared today by the press secretary of the president of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Peskov.


"As regards such decisions with respect to representatives of the Russian security forces, of course we consider this absolutely unacceptable; it is a continuation of the destructive line in bilateral relations," TASS quotes the representative of the Kremlin. He added that the Russian MID has already announced Moscow's upcoming appropriate response to Washington's decision.


At the same time, Peskov considered to be incorrect the question of whether the authorities would support the officials who were inscribed onto the American sanctions lists. . . . (tr. by PDS, posted 16 September 2019)

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