Russia Detains Christians Opposing War
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
MOSCOW (Worthy News) – Russian authorities are detaining prominent Christians opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including a Christian musician and a priest, investigators told Worthy News.
Anna Chagina, a 43-year-old Christian who works as a musician and teacher, faces a maximum three-year jail term or a hefty fine on charges of “discrediting” the Russian Armed Forces, sources said.
She was to appear on March 15 in front of Judge Roman Zaynulin of the Soviet District Court in the Siberian city of Tomsk, the court confirmed.
Separately the trial continues at St Petersburg’s Kalinin District Court of Orthodox priest Ioann Kurmoyarov on charges of disseminating “knowingly false information on the use of the Armed Forces,” Worthy News learned.
On March 6, he was brought to court for his latest hearing from St Petersburg’s Kresty-2 prison where he has been held since his arrest in June 2022, said advocacy group Forum 18.
“The judge adjourned the hearing until 10 April because Kurmoyarov’s lawyer Luiza
Magomedova was unwell,” Forum 18 told Worthy News.
In both cases, the Christians were targeted for their faith-based opposition to the war in Ukraine, according to sources familiar with their matter.
Musician Chagina’s first conviction was for displaying a poster reading “Blessed are the peacemakers” at an anti-war protest in Tomsk in March 2022, rights investigators said.
She was charged just two days after the new offense of “discreditation” of the war came into force.
Prosecutors also accused Chagina of posting anti-war materials on social media, violating recently adopted war legislation.
“Chagina’s online posts included reposting an anti-war petition by Russian Orthodox clergy,” noted Forum 18. There were also “online debates on the war from a Christian perspective and updates on the criminal prosecution of Orthodox priest Ioann Kurmoyarov in St Petersburg.“
Russian authorities detained Chagina for one day after searching her flat in Tomsk at the end of November 2022, investigators said. Since then, she has been under “specific restrictions, including a ban on using the internet,” Forum 18 explained.
She was reportedly also forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement preventing her from discussing the investigation.
Witnesses in the case have also had to sign such agreements, trial observers said.
Forum 18 said the trials are part of broader tactics by Russia’s government “to pressure” church leaders and others “into supporting the invasion” of Ukraine.
“These tactics include warnings to senior and local religious leaders, and prosecuting and fining religious believers and clergy who have publicly opposed the war.”
Yet, “It is unclear what effect this has had on religious believers who may have considered making a public protest against the war,” added Forum 18, which closely followed the cases.
Russian authorities declined to discuss the trials targeting Christians publicly.
However, “Similar warnings and prosecutions have been used against many Russians who
express opposition to the war for any reason,” Forum 18 said.
It comes amid reports of significant Russian losses on the battlefields in Ukraine, with Western intelligence sources saying as many as 200,000 Russian troops were killed or injured in just over a year of fighting.
Ukraine also lost thousands of troops.