Summary: POLICE AGAIN INTERROGATE LUTHERANS IN KHAKASSIA: Local

police confirmed Deacon Zayakin and his wife were not Americans after visiting their home and checking their passports having receiving reports Americans had visited their home. Over the past two years, security agents have visited the deacon, in one instance asking why he had foreign books in his flat, and inviting Zayakin to provide further information on the members of his congregation.   Friday 13 March 1998 POLICE AGAIN INTERROGATE LUTHERANS IN KHAKASSIA by Lawrence A. Uzzell, Keston News Service Lutherans in Khakassia were reminded once again on 5 March that their commitment to their church may lead to personal visits and interrogations by the state security agencies.  On that date local police in the small town of Tuim, 2500 miles east of Moscow in south-west Siberia, called on the flat of DEACON PAVEL ZAYAKIN and demanded to inspect his and his wife's passports. The episode recalls a round of visits last year to members of Deacon Zayakin's congregation by officers of the police and the ex-KGB (see Keston News Service, October 1997). But the following day brought good news for the Lutherans, not directly related to the police visits: an arbitration court in the provincial capital of Abakan rejected an appeal against its earlier decision not to consider a lawsuit brought by the provincial procuracy demanding that the provincial Ministry of Justice cancel the Lutheran mission's registration.  If the mission's opponents choose to continue their efforts to close it, they will have to file a new case before another court. In a fax to the Keston News Service from Tuim, Deacon Zayakin reported that the two policemen who visited his flat told him that they had received reports that he and his wife were Americans.  The deacon - an ethnic Russian and life-long resident and citizen of the Russian Federation - rang the local police headquarters to ask what had prompted this investigation, and was told that it had been ordered by RODION CHUGUNYAKOV, the director of the procuracy for the Shira district which includes Tuim. The police said that they had heard that Americans had been present in the Zayakins' flat. In similar episodes in late 1996 and early 1997, officers from the security agencies visited members of the Lutheran mission to ask them about their foreign contacts and to question them about the genuineness of their commitment to Lutheranism.  The first of these episodes came after several American pastors from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod visited the Tuim mission.  (The mission receives financial help from the Missouri Synod even though it is canonically independent from the American body, being under the jurisdiction of the Lutheran Church in Estonia.) According to Deacon Zayakin, officer SERGEI BOBROBNIKOV of the FSB (the renamed KGB) told him that the Estonian security agencies were interested in Russia. But as Keston learned in December, Tuim has never been closed to outsiders - unlike cities which house sensitive military or research facilities. The town was created around a metals factory which is currently not functioning, leaving most of the local work force unemployed. In an interview with Keston, the Abakan provincial government's adviser on church-state relations, NIKOLAI VOLKOV, said that 'there's nothing in Tuim worth spying on'. Zayakin told Keston that Bobrobnikov openly identified himself as an FSB officer from the provincial headquarters in Abakan, and that he ominously said that he 'knew how to penetrate people's disguises'.  He asked why the Zayakins had foreign books in their flat, and invited Zayakin to provide further information on the members of his congregation.  Zayakin refused  and told Bobrobnikov, 'Either you are incompetent or you are mounting a deliberate provocation'. Keston rang Bobrobnikov in Abakan on 9 December.  He confirmed that he had indeed visited the Lutherans but said that he had no quarrel with the congregation and that he is not now involved with this case.  He promised to ring back later with more information but never did so, and failed to return subsequent telephone calls from Keston. According to  Deacon Zayakin's account,  in the summer of 1997 Volkov himself came to Tuim with officials from the provincial procuracy and Ministry  of  Justice.  Like  the police,  they closely questioned  members of  the  congregation on their commitment to Lutheranism; Volkov accused Zayakin of including non-Lutherans among the ten  'founders'  who  had signed  the formal declaration needed to register the mission.  Zayakin in turn accused  Volkov  and other authorities of deliberately intimidating members of his congregation;  he pointed out that one member had  served  a prison  term  during  the soviet period for her activities as a Baptist. Deacon Zayakin emphasises that Russia's  post-soviet  laws forbid  state officials  to interrogate private citizens about their religious beliefs. 'I should have explained more clearly to our people what their rights are',  he told Keston, including the right simply to refuse to open the door to the police or  to respond to the summons to come to the mayor's office for further questions.  But he said that habits formed during the soviet period were hard to break, and many believers were still 'easy to intimidate'. Two of the founders bowed to this intimidation,  said Zayakin, and withdrew their sponsorship of the mission.  But they  were then replaced by others, and the Lutherans have filed a new list of 'founders'. At a worship service observed by Keston on Sunday, 7  December, more than a dozen of the nearly forty people present received Communion. Volkov's position is that the law requires  that  the  ten members needed to  'found' a new church must all be members in good canonical standing of that church's confession - not  simply catechumens who intend to become full members in the future. 'Zayakin knows he's wrong,  he violated the law', Volkov told Keston.  'He should have baptised his people first and then registered the parish.' In  Volkov's  view the fact that the mission  now clearly has more than ten baptised and confirmed members is irrelevant.       Russia's 1990 law on freedom of conscience,  in effect at  the time when the Lutheran parish was registered in 1996,  states (Article 17) that 'a religious association is a  voluntary association  of adult citizens,  formed  with the goals of joint exercise of the right of citizens  to  freedom  of  conscience, including joint confession and dissemination of faith'.  The 1990 law also states (Article 6)  that  'The indication of the views of a citizen about religion is not permitted on official documents'. Zayakin told Keston that the building now used  by his parish for worship, formerly owned by the town council,  had been extensively repaired by the Lutherans since they bought  it  - but that  the mission had still not received a formal certificate of ownership.  'The local authorities would love to  get  back this newly repaired building without having to pay for it', he said.  He pointed out that first the local procuracy had sent a letter invoking the new  1997 law against the mission, but that then that letter had been withdrawn and a new attack was mounted on the entirely different basis that the parish had supposedly violated the old 1990 law by not having enough bona fide Lutheran 'founders'. Asked by Keston to comment on that sequence of events,  Volkov said that the timing was a coincidence: he blamed the provincial procuracy and Ministry of Justice for failing to respond to his repeated pleas to  take action much sooner.  'There's a general problem when registration is conducted by non-specialists at agencies like the Ministry of Justice',  he said. 'Their officials are constantly being replaced by newcomers who don't know anything about religion.  It shows that we need to create a unified federal organ'. (END)