KESTON NEWS SERVICE
Issue 8, Article 13, 11 August 2000

Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in
communist and post-communist lands.
______________________________________
SUMMARY:
RUSSIA: KOSTROMA COURT HEARING POSTPONED, BUT
HARASSMENT CONTINUES. Kostoma Christian Centre faces liquidation proceedings on
accusations of using hypnotism in its services. The pastor told Keston that the
FSB (former KGB) keeps him under constant surveillance; meanwhile the
Ministry of Internal Affairs has summoned him to a meeting without
explanation and the head of the regional tax department has spoken on the
radio about its investigation of the church.

Friday 11 August 2000
RUSSIA: KOSTROMA COURT HEARING POSTPONED, BUT
HARASSMENT CONTINUES

by Mikhail Edelstein, Keston News Service

Judge TAMARA KOSHKINA has postponed the start of the court hearing to
liquidate the Kostroma Christian Centre (KCC), the largest local Pentecostal
church. The hearing had been set for 3 August, but the judge agreed to the
request for a postponement from ANDREI DANILOV, pastor of the KCC, as
the church's lawyers could not be present in court on this date. Koshkina told
Keston News Service on 3 August that the hearing would not now be held
before the autumn. Meanwhile,
Danilov told Keston the same day that harassment was continuing from various
state agencies, including the tax authorities, the local procuracy and the Federal
Security Service (FSB), a successor to the KGB. Danilov maintains that the
FSB and the law-enforcement agencies are still keeping him under constant
surveillance.

On 15 May the Kostroma Justice Department refused to re-register two
Pentecostal associations - the KCC and the Grace Church of Evangelical
Christians - because they were accused of using hypnosis during church
services (see KNS 9 June 2000). Officials of the Justice Department brought a
legal action seeking their liquidation. The date of the first hearing in the case to
liquidate the Grace Church has not yet been set.

At the end of July, the Kostroma regional tax department completed a four-
month investigation into the activities of the KCC and its pastor. As a result of
the investigation, Danilov was ordered to pay fines totalling 4900 roubles (120
British pounds or 175 US dollars), which he promptly paid. On 31 July,
NIKOLAI NIKITOV, the head of the Kostroma regional tax department, told
Kostroma State TV and Radio Company (KGTPK) about the results of the
investigation and these facts were broadcast the same day.

Curiously, a few months ago Keston tried to obtain information from the same
regional tax department about an investigation into businesses belonging to the
Kostroma diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, but received an official
refusal, signed by the same Nikitov. In his refusal letter, he stated that officials
of the tax inspector's office were forbidden by law not only to divulge the
results of such investigations, but even to confirm or deny that they had taken
place.

MARGARITA SOLOVYOVA, head of the personal taxation section at the
Kostroma tax inspector's office affirmed to Keston on 4 August that at present
her department had no complaint against Danilov and that no criminal case was
being brought against him for late payment of taxes. She added that the
investigation into the KCC had not uncovered any serious violations of the law.
Solovyova denied any connection between the actions taken by the tax
inspector's office and the moves to liquidate the KCC. She stated that the
investigation into the KCC and its pastor was based on information supplied by
the federal tax authorities.

In mid-July Danilov was summoned to the municipal procurator's office, where
investigator ROMAN KRASNOV informed him that his office had received
documents from the FSB about the KCC's activities. The investigator showed
Danilov a document which, the pastor reports, appeared to declare that
someone called LAPINA (Danilov could not recall her first name) had
informed the FSB about her stay in a children's camp, where she had become
acquainted with a former member of the KCC - a 17-year-old called Boris.
Lapina's statement maintained that Boris had begun to suffer from a mental
disorder as a result of being in the KCC and had undergone a rehabilitation
course at the camp. Lapina called on the FSB to examine closely the activities
of the Kostroma Pentecostals. The investigator required Danilov to give an
`explanatory statement' about this report.

Keston has been unable to contact Krasnov as he is currently on holiday. The
Kostroma procurator, VLADIMIR RYABKOV, confirmed to Keston on 3
August that his office had received documents about the activities of the KCC
from the FSB and that an official investigation was underway on the basis of
this information. However, Ryabkov refused to discuss the contents of the
documents received, to forecast the results of the investigation or say how long
it would take. Danilov himself told Keston that neither the author of the
statement nor the person described in it was known to him.

On 2 August, Danilov was issued with a foreign passport which he had been
hoping to receive at the beginning of July so that he could travel to a Christian
conference in South Africa (see KNS 5 July 2000). The passport was dated 21
July, thus ensuring that the officials of the Visa and Registration Department
(OVIR) kept to the monthly deadline stipulated for issuing a passport. (Danilov
had applied for one to the OVIR on 22 June.)

On the morning of 3 August, Danilov was summoned to the district
Department of Internal Affairs (UVD), but ALEKSANDR PROKOPYEV, the
official who had signed the summons, did not turn up at the appointed time.
After waiting for an hour, Danilov went home and remains unaware of why the
UVD summoned him. Keston spoke to Prokopyev on 4 August but he refused
to discuss the case before his meeting with Danilov. However, he explained
that the pastor had been summoned after the UVD had received information
that some of Danilov's recent actions were not sanctioned in the proper manner.
Prokopyev declared that the UVD was now checking this information. This
probably refers to the `prayer conferences' organised by the KCC a few weeks
ago, together with American fellow-believers. (END)


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