The US authorities imposed sanctions against the head of the Investigative Department of Surgut Vladimir Ermolaev and senior investigator of the Department Stepan Tkach for gross violations of human rights. The relevant document is published on the website of the US State Department.

The Department said it had reliable information that Yermolaev and Tkach were involved in torture and/or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of members of Jehovah’s Witnesses detained in Surgut. In 2017, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation recognized the organization as extremist and banned it.

The State Department said that on February 15, 2019, employees of the regional investigation Department under the leadership of Ermolaev and Tkach strangled, electrocuted and beat seven detained members of the organization. Ermolaev and Tkach and their relatives were banned from entering the United States.

The US called on the Russian authorities to stop the criminal cases of more than 200 members of the organization, who are now “in prison because of their religious beliefs.”