Issue 7, Articles 1-2, 5 July 2000

Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in
communist and post-communist lands.



Wednesday 5 July 2000

by Mikhail Edelstein, Keston News Service

The pastor of a Pentecostal church in the town of Kostroma near Moscow has
been blocked from receiving a new passport in time for him to travel to a
Christian conference in South Africa which begins on 10 July, forcing him to
cancel his proposed visit. The pastor, ANDREI DANILOV, told Keston News
Service that he believes the local branch of the FSB (the former KGB) had
issued an order to delay the granting of the new passport. The head of the local
visa and registration office confirmed to Keston that the FSB was one of the
agencies which had to check the passport application, but did not reveal
whether it was the FSB that had failed to return the documentation on time.

Danilov's church, the Kostroma Christian Centre, was refused reregistration in
May by the Kostroma regional department of justice, which is now preparing a
case to liquidate the Centre (see KNS 9 June 2000).

Danilov applied urgently for a passport for overseas travel on 22 July after
being invited to the South African conference. His current passport expires in
September but under current regulations it is impossible in practice to leave the
Russian Federation in the final few months of a passport's validity. An urgent
application for a passport usually takes between three and ten days at the
Kostroma visa and registration department (OVIR). However, at the end of this
period Danilov had not received his new passport and was thus forced to cancel
his planned participation in the conference.

The head of the Kostroma OVIR, VIKTOR DULNEV, told Keston on 4 July
that it was not his office that was at fault in Danilov's case. He declared that in
accordance with the law the information on an individual applying for a
passport for overseas travel is checked by the FSB as well as by a number of
other official agencies. Dulnev reported that one of these bodies had failed to
return Danilov's documents in time, thus preventing the OVIR from issuing
him with a new passport, although he did not divulge which agency had failed
to return the documentation. Dulnev declared that such occurrences were not
rare in the OVIR's experience.

Danilov blames the local branch of the FSB for obstructing his receipt of his
new passport. He told Keston on 4 July that he had learnt that FSB officers in
Kostroma had told the OVIR leadership that he `speaks too much' and that this
is why he did not receive his passport on time. (END)

Wednesday 5 July 2000

by Lawrence A. Uzzell, Keston News Service

Both Russian government officials and clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate are
spreading the view that American Protestant missionaries are in Russia as part
of a US government plot to transfer Chukotka, Magadan and other Far Eastern
regions from Russian to American sovereignty.

On 27 June Bishop ANATOLI (AKSENOV) of the Moscow Patriarchate's
diocese of Magadan and Chukotka on Russia's Pacific coast gave Keston News
Service a copy of a letter which he said `fully reflected' his own opinions about
American missionaries in Russia's Far East. The letter, written by professor
M.N. KUZNETSOV of the Russian Academy of State Service on 28 February
to Russia's State Committee on Affairs of the North, cited a document from
Russia's Security Council warning of what Kuznetsov called `a carefully
planned system of measures by the USA, now being executed over a long-term
period, to wrest Chukotka away from the Russian Federation and make it part
of the USA'. In Kuznetsov's words, `No small part of this system is the
religious invasion of a huge number of American Protestant preachers, who
recently have been constantly intensifying their activities in the Far East and
especially in Chukotka.'

Kuznetsov's letter went on to claim that the growing presence of American and
South Korean Protestant religious organisations is connected with American
`geopolitical plans aimed at strengthening the USA's influence in the region,
and at the subsequent wresting away from Russia of the Chukotka Autonomous
Okrug, and after that all of
the Far East'.

VALENTIN TSVETKOV, governor of the Magadan region, apparently agrees
with this view. In a speech reprinted in the December 1998 issue of the journal
`Politika' he complained that foreign missions in Magadan are spending
`enormous amounts of money' and that their `main goal is not at all religious
education, but control over the region and its natural wealth'. In a 1 July
meeting with Keston the governor's adviser on religious affairs,
ALEKSANDRA POSPELOVA, said that she thinks it quite credible that the
US government would want to take over Russia's Far East. Also feeding
suspicion of western missionaries is the Magadan branch of the FSB (the
former KGB). In a February 1999 interview with the newspaper
`Magadanskaya pravda', V.I. RULYEV of the Magadan region directorate of
the FSB said that `Many religious organisations in Magadan have been created
with the help of foreign organisations. The question arises: is this really for
selfless motives?'

NIKOLAI VOSKOBOINIKOV, pastor of the Pentecostal `Slovo zhizni'
(`Word of Life') congregation in Magadan, told Keston in a 30 June interview
that he and has flock are often accused `of being foreign spies, and of getting
money from people and transferring it to America'. His congregation, which he
said is not formally part of the Swedish-based international Word of Life
movement, has been accused of overly
aggressive evangelisation even by some of his fellow western Christians. Last
year, however, the congregation won a court case against local prosecutors
seeking to cancel its legal registration (see KNS 15 June 1999). Voskoboinikov
said that members of his flock have continued to experience harassing phone
calls and occasional beatings by unidentified assailants. `We have complained
to the police but so far nothing has been done,' he told Keston. He added that
such instances of harassment worsened after the congregation sent information
about them to the US Consulate in Vladivostok.

A more encouraging view was expressed by American Baptist missionary
ROBERT CRANE, regional head of Russia's indigenous Union of Evangelical
Christians/Baptists in the Magadan area. He told Keston on 2 July that only
once in the past year had he heard the accusation that the Americans are
plotting to take over Russia's Pacific provinces. He added that in Russia people
are understandably suspicious of humanitarian aid and think it must have some
other motive other than disinterested charity. (END)

Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.