Russian Police, FSB Raid Homes Of Jehovah's Witnesses In Murmansk

Police and security troops in Russia's northwestern city of Murmansk have raided the homes of Jehovah's Witnesses, a religious group that Moscow has outlawed and labeled as extremist.

The Investigative Committee said on December 30 that five locations in Murmansk had been searched by police and the officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in a move "to thwart activities of a banned extremist group."

According to the statement, books and electronic devices were confiscated, and individuals allegedly involved in the "illegal" activities of the "extremist group" were identified.

The statement did not say if anyone was arrested during or after the searches.

A video posted on YouTube by the Investigative Committee showed its officers along with those of the FSB using a sledgehammer to break down the door of what appeared to be an apartment.

The statement comes days after a court in Penza, 550 kilometers southeast of Moscow, sentenced a Jehovah’s Witness, Vladimir Alyushkin, to six years in prison.

Russia banned the religious group in April 2017 and deemed it an "extremist organization," a designation the U.S. State Department says is "wrong."

Since the faith was outlawed, several followers of the Jehovah's Witnesses have been imprisoned in Russia, including Danish national Dennis Christensen, who was sentenced to six years in prison in February in the western city of Oryol in a case condemned both in Russia and abroad.

In September, the United States banned two high-ranking regional officers of Russia's Investigative Committee from entering the country for allegedly torturing seven Jehovah's Witnesses.

According to the religious group, as of December 9, there were 297 Jehovah’s Witnesses "dealing with criminal charges for their faith"; 43 in detention; and 22 under house arrest.

The Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center has recognized 29 Jehovah’s Witnesses charged with or convicted of extremism as political prisoners.

The Jehovah's Witnesses have been eyed with suspicion in Russia for decades for its members' views about military service, voting, and government authority in general.