In mid-November, a trial began in Pskov over a sixty-year-old follower of the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses, Gennady Shpakovsky. He headed the local religious organization of the same name until liquidation in 2017 – then the Ministry of Justice recognized it as extremist and banned activities in the country. The FSB accuses Shpakovsky of continuing to lead the Pskov Witnesses and holding meetings until mid-2018. In order to prove this, the special services installed a camera, audio equipment in the pensioner's house and read all his actions on a computer. Bugs, video cameras and spyware were installed in the apartments of believers.
"Build a theocratic state with a globe"
– We perfectly understood that they (Jehovah's Witnesses – MBH Media) would not stop their activities, because we know their goals. <…> The purpose of Jehovah's Witnesses is to build a theocratic state the size of the globe, ”FSB officer in the Pskov region, Ivan Kalyta, told the court.
He participates in the trial as a witness, because he conducted operational work in the Shpakovsky case. The FSB collected information about them from 2017 to 2018, and then transferred it to its own investigative department for verification. On June 3, 2018, law enforcement officers with guns and masks knocked out the front door and burst into Shpakovsky’s apartment.
– We drank tea when they burst in shouting, either "Stand!" Or "Do not move!". And here we have an eighty-year-old grandmother, children – one and a half years, another – eleven, other elderly women. They scared everyone, ”Gennady Valeryanovich told“ MBX Media ”later.
A dozen people — those same Witnesses — are listening attentively to the FSB officer during the trial. They come to every meeting in the Shpakovsky case and sit patiently until the end, even if the written materials of the prosecution are simply listed in the process. They look very different – young women with make-up, modern styling and strict, with long braids, bearded men, devout grandmothers, twenty-thirty years old guys. They hug each other when they meet in the corridors of the court, and if fellow believers (as they call those who profess their doctrine – “MBX Media”) have to act as witnesses in the process, they are very worried: “Larisa’s heart is sick, it’s kind of bad not gone. ”
The FSB operative has a lot and seems to be proud to talk about the structure of Jehovah's Witnesses – he studied it for a long time. It follows from his words that the world has already been divided by them into theocratic zones, the whole territory of Russia is a branch with theocratic regions, special pioneers of Jehovah's Witnesses preach 130 hours a month, receive 25 thousand rubles and lure people with conversations on the intercom about cleaning the yard, and traveling overseers carefully monitor the gatherings of believers. The guilty, according to the FSB officer Ivan Kalyta, are expelled from the organization and actually declared non-existent – they do not greet on the street, even the family ceases to communicate with them.
– From the center (probably referring to the “Jehovah's Witnesses Management Center in Russia”, its activity is prohibited in Russia – “MBX Media”) they regularly received instructions on what and how to do, including on conspiracy measures . When examining Shpakovsky’s computer, we found documents indicating how to behave during the search, how to testify – the organization was very well prepared! People realized that they were engaged in illegal activities, the FSB operative reported to the court.
– Did they have any calls for violence, genocide, enmity and hatred? Did you install it somehow? – asked his lawyer Shpakovsky Arli Chimirov.
– I don’t remember now. We have an extremist organization Jehovah's Witnesses in Pskov. We have people who do this. I do not have the primary task of eliciting calls for extremism. I need to document that the organization continues to operate. <…> I did not have so much time and energy to do this. This is superfluous redundant work, ”Kalita answered.
“Temporary restriction of constitutional rights”
He carefully documented the activities and meetings of the Witnesses: in the Shpakovsky’s apartment, the FSB installed video cameras, equipment for audio recording and gained access to his computer (probably, among other things, the software for recording from the monitor was used – MBX media).
– We recorded the holding of religious meetings at the place of residence and his work at the computer – the facts of receiving instructions from the center by him, reporting acts, including accounting. In order to fix the fact that Shpakovsky works at the computer, receives and sends correspondence, a video camera was installed in the room. Meetings were recorded with audio recordings, – said the FSB operative.
In the case file, such surveillance takes place as operational-search measures “Observation and removal of information from technical means”. The senior assistant to the prosecutor of Pskov, Oleg Tsyplakov (he represents the prosecution in the process – MBH Media) later explained that the Pskov City Court had sanctioned these actions – they called it “temporary restriction of the constitutional rights of a citizen”.
An FSB officer explained in detail that the Witnesses were recommended to use the Try Crypt program for encryption, all organizational documents and reports were kept in a cloud file storage from a foreign company Citrix, where access was only through two-factor authentication. He also found out to the law enforcer where the believers found the literature – on sites where the numbers used were 24, 14, 54, 17 and a number of abbreviations.
– The names seem strange and incomprehensible, but there is a deep meaning in them. This is a reference to the Bible. Issa 54–17 is the book of the prophet Isaiah: “Not a single instrument made against you will be successful. And any language that will compete with you in court, you will blame. " As you can see, they also trolled the police, ”said Ivan Kalyta, an FSB officer.
“Expert Kryukova told us what questions to ask”
Lawyer Arli Chimirov told MBH Media that the case file contains a disc recording a meeting of Witnesses from 2013. It was used for phonoscopic examination in order to compare Shpakovsky’s voice with recordings of operative-search measures of 2017−2018. The video disc, according to the official version, appeared from one of the witnesses, but the defender of Gennady Valeryanovich suggests that his client could be closely watched even before the organization was banned by the Ministry of Justice.
– We have known about the existence of this organization for a long time – we knew who the leader was, how the activity was conducted, an FSB operative indirectly confirmed his suspicions at the hearing, but made a reservation – <…> Until 2017, I was not so knowledgeable about them. Operational measures restricting the constitutional rights of citizens until 2017 were not carried out, so I did not have such deep knowledge as now.
Kalita also noted that in the period before the ban on the religious organization, the FSB “did not record any signs of illegal activity in the Pskov unit of Jehovah's Witnesses.”
After collecting all the data from the cameras, recording devices, and the computer, the FSB sent them for a religious examination to confirm that it was Jehovah's Witnesses who conducted the meetings, then the investigation department opened a criminal case.
– You sent materials for research to a somewhat sad institution to expert Kryukova. Why didn’t they turn to institutions under the Ministry of Justice? Asked the lawyer Chimirov.
– Now there is a very large workload of expert institutions with materials specifically for religious organizations. Finding an organization that will do the research in an acceptable time frame is extremely difficult. We chose Kryukova because she could conduct a study at the right time for us, ”an FSB officer explained.
– Was it paid? – said the defender
– This is a question for accounting. I was negotiating on what questions to put before an expert, because I am not a religious expert, and I do not know how to formulate the questions correctly. So I called up and asked about which is better, which formulations are better suited. The expert said that it’s better to do so, and we asked such a question, ”Kalyta admitted.
“It is impossible to imagine that the FSB will go underground!”
At the meeting, he stated several times that Shpakovsky remained in the status of leader of the Pskov Jehovah's Witnesses and held meetings after the organization was banned. The words of Gennady Valeryanovich and his fellow believers that they talked peacefully and drank tea, the FSB officer called conspiracy, sometimes even excessive. He claimed that during the search the sweets were not unpacked, the mugs were empty, and donations were kept in jars labeled “Salt” and “Sugar”.
– And if your FSB organization ceases to exist, will you have to get another job, the position of an operational officer will remain with you? – Shpakovsky asked.
– If the structure in which I work ceases to exist formally, but really continues, then my position will be called exactly the same. <…> As Jehovah's Witnesses formally ceased their activities, but in reality people at the head continue to do the same … – Kalita began.
– How do you imagine what the FSB is underground? If the Nazis came? Yes it will! What are you asking about? Federal Security Service! It is even impossible to imagine under what circumstances it would suddenly become clandestine! Bad comparison, wrong! Unacceptable! – Judge Galina Belik was indignant
“Analogies are inappropriate here,” the prosecutor said.
“I only regret that the person works in the FSB,” said Shpakovsky.
"MBH.MEDIA", November 21, 2019