In September 2020, 28-year-old Vyacheslav Koldiaev, a former member of the Baptist Church in Archangelsk, Russia before moving to another city, returned to support the church which was under a court order for demolition of a disputed portion.
The small Baptist church had been facing problems since 2016 when private developers and the city government began court proceedings to claim land on which part of the church building sat. The church’s building was surrounded by dilapidated houses, but the city had plans for high rise apartments and a commercial center in the area. So through the courts they declared several of the homes and buildings as illegal construction, including part of the church’s building. Over the next three years, demolition crews made repeated attempts to tear down the disputed portion, but each time they came, church members gathered and prevented the demolition. The church members always responded peacefully, insisting that their building was properly permitted
When a demolition crew arrived on September 24, 2020 with the court order in hand, church members formed a human chain around the church building. A junior bailiff broke the human chain by pulling first Deacon Koldiaev and then other church members out of the line and taking them to the police station. Later, the bailiff alleged that Deacon Koldiaev had stepped out of the chain and assaulted him. The deacon was charged with “use of violence dangerous to life or health against a representative of the authorities”, a crime punishable by up to ten years in prison.
During the trial, the defense showed video of the event which clearly exonerated Deacon Koldiaev. Despite that video, despite any witnesses to support the bailiff’s claim, and even despite the bailiff repeatedly changing his testimony, Deacon Koldiaev was convicted on May 13, 2021 and sentenced to two years in prison.
To make matters worse, Deacon Koldiaev’s infant son fell and hit his head ten days before the start of his trial, suffering a traumatic brain injury. His wife Anna was unable to be with him even to see him off to prison because she was at the hospital with their child.
She says the couple’s son, now one year old, is steadily improving. The couple also now has a three-year-old son. “Don’t be too sad for our family,” she said in remarks to the International Union of Churches of Evangelical Christian Baptists. “This is only a small part of the sorrow of the children of God.” Mrs. Koldiaeva says she receives child benefits and material support provided by friends. “Thank God, there is enough for everything,” she adds.
Voice of the Martyrs Korea is undertaking a letter writing campaign to encourage Deacon Koldiaev, whose prison sentence is scheduled to end on March 3, 2023.
Deacon Koldiaev recommends that in addition to letters that are sent to him personally, that people also include some extra postcards with a scripture verse or spiritual edification that he can give to unbelievers who are in the same prison with him.