KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 29 August 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

I. RUSSIA: US VOLUNTEER MISSIONARY DEPORTED. An American
Protestant carrying out religious work on a voluntary basis in Izhevsk, in the
Republic of Udmurtia, was deported from Russia on 21 July. Craig Rucin
told Keston News Service that local officials said he was 'a danger to the
Russian Federation' and that his deportation was 'a matter of national
security.' 'They think my real aim is to change the hearts and minds of
Russians so that they become more obedient to the US,' he said.

II. RUSSIA: PROTESTANTS NOT WELCOME IN UDMURTIA? There is
nothing wrong with relations between Protestants and the local authorities in
Udmurtia, the republic's plenipotentiary for religious affairs told Keston
News Service. A Pentecostal Christian in the capital, Izhevsk, however,
pointed out to Keston that on the same night as workers from a Protestant
drug rehabilitation centre were kidnapped, an arson attack killed seven
Protestants. She believes that the local authorities - particularly the FSB - are
attempting to fight the growing influence of local churches through
virulently anti-Protestant articles in the Udmurt press.

I. RUSSIA: US VOLUNTEER MISSIONARY DEPORTED

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

An American Protestant carrying out religious work on a voluntary basis in
the capital of the Republic of Udmurtia, Izhevsk (700 miles east of
Moscow), was deported from Russia on 21 July. Craig Rucin explained to
Keston on 17 July that he had been summoned to the local OVIR office (the
bureaucratic department which deals with registration of foreign citizens) the
previous week and informed that he constituted 'a danger to the Russian
Federation'. An OVIR official had told him that there was no obligation to
give the reason for his deportation, said Rucin, since it was 'a matter of
national security.'

With a one-year business visa valid until January 2002, Rucin had been
working for a local cultural exchange company called 'Slovo' ('Word'),
which gives courses in computer studies, Russian and English to both
foreign and local citizens. Partly founded by a Florida-based Protestant
missionary organisation, Pioneers, Slovo changed its name from 'Russian-
American Christian Professionals Institute' and dropped the religious aspect
of its work when it reregistered in 1998.

Attached to Pioneers on an individual basis, Rucin told Keston that while in
Izhevsk he had additionally given free training to local Protestant pastors,
which he stressed had taken place 'in the evenings and at weekends - in my
spare time - which should be within my rights.' The 1997 Russian law on
religion is hazy in this area. While Article 20, Part 2 states that 'religious
organisations have the exclusive right to invite foreign citizens for
professional purposes', no conditions for non-professional or voluntary
religious activity by foreign citizens are specified. Such activity would
appear to come under the individual right to disseminate religious
convictions guaranteed to foreign citizens legally present in the Russian
Federation by Article 3, Part 1.

Speaking to Keston on 21 August, plenipotentiary for religious affairs in
Udmurtia, Sergei Ilinsky, was unable to state definitively why Rucin had
been expelled, but thought that it might be due to his religious activity. 'He
came here as a teacher of English with Slovo - and religious work is not in
accordance with that. It is a violation of his visa and the charter of that
organisation.' Ilinsky evidently deemed Rucin's religious activity to be
professional in status despite its voluntary nature, describing it as 'training up
personnel for local Protestant churches.' It was perfectly in order for a
missionary to do such work if invited by a local Protestant church, he said,
and stressed that many such churches invited foreigners to preach and
distribute literature in Udmurtia 'without problems.'

In Ilinsky's view, a further possible factor in Rucin's expulsion was that 'we
don't have a simple republic here - it contains many military installations and
there has always been a high degree of vigilance here.' Craig Rucin also
pointed out to Keston that Udmurtia was a closed zone until perestroika due
to its military installations, commenting 'they are paranoid about outsiders
here.' Rucin's predecessor at Slovo and a lieutenant-colonel in the US army,
Warren Wagner worked as a supervisor of weaponry disarmament in the
Udmurt town of Votkinsk. On 10 August Wagner - who is now assistant to
the president of Pioneers - wrote to Keston that he had been denied a visa to
Russia in January 1999. 'The foreign ministry regional office in Izhevsk told
Slovo representatives that they would not approve an invitation to me. Since
then they have been told that I am under a five-year ban.'

Precisely how Rucin's activity could constitute a danger to the Russian
Federation remains unclear. On 27 August the director of Slovo, Galina
Aminova, told Keston that she believes his expulsion to be part of a broader
anti-Protestant drive on the part of the Udmurt authorities (see separate KNS
article). 'It is because he is foreign and a Christian,' she explained, 'I don't
think there would have been a problem if he'd just been foreign - and we are
the kind of Christians who do not sleep.' Rucin also pointed to allegedly
FSB-inspired articles (see separate KNS article) in the Udmurt press
claiming his religious work to be a front for the US government. 'They think
my real aim is to change the hearts and minds of Russians so that they
become more obedient to the US,' he told Keston. (END)

II. RUSSIA: PROTESTANTS NOT WELCOME IN UDMURTIA?

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

There is nothing wrong with relations between Protestants and the local
authorities in Udmurtia, according to the republic's plenipotentiary for
religious affairs, Sergei Ilinsky. Questioned by Keston about the kidnapping
on the night of 24-25 July of the head of a 'Novaya Zhizn' ('New Life')
Protestant drugs rehabilitation centre and his assistant, Ilinsky praised
Dmitry Mafenko's work and suggested that the perpetrator was 'a drugs
dealer who resented his success.' The local police and FSB were actively
seeking the pair, he assured Keston on 21 August, adding that he was
confident that they would be found 'because it is such a serious occurrence.'

Director of the cultural exchange company 'Slovo' (see separate KNS article)
and active member of 'Philadelphia', one of the largest Pentecostal churches
in Izhevsk, Galina Aminova takes a quite different view. Speaking to Keston
on 27 August, she said that local police believe Mafenko to have staged the
kidnapping in order to 'raise his popularity.' She also pointed out that on the
same night as the kidnapping three Protestant adults (including a pregnant
mother) and four children died in an arson attack: 'They were all members of
Philadelphia and supporters of Novaya Zhizn.' Ilinsky claimed to be unaware
of this event.

Aminova believes the two events to be not only connected, but also heavily
influenced by the local Udmurt authorities' hostility towards Protestants. The
churches' active anti-drink and drugs campaigning collides with the interests
of local politicians as well as drugs dealers, she maintains, since 'you can't
manipulate a sober mind.' In addition to the difficulties experienced by her
former employee Craig Rucin (see separate KNS article), Aminova told
Keston that the 800-strong Philadelphia congregation was recently blocked
from renting its usual Izhevsk cinema theatre for services at 10am due to a
film showing. 'They can't refuse us directly, but it is clear that they don't
want us there. Who goes to the cinema at 9am on a Sunday morning?'

Aminova also believes that the local authorities - particularly the FSB - are
attempting to fight the growing influence of local churches through
virulently anti-Protestant articles in the Udmurt press. On 28 February 2001
the state-owed 'Udmurtskaya Pravda' ('Truth of Udmurtia') carried the article
'Starred and Striped Trojan Horse', which accused Slovo of financially
supporting a project by a young ethnic Tatar Protestant, Takhir Bayanov, to
produce Christian television programmes in the Tatar language. Having
aroused protests from the local Spiritual Directorate of Muslims, '"Path to
Faith" threatened to incite of international hatred', according to the
newspaper, and led 'the official organs to take a close interest in Slovo.'

Explaining that she had personally financed Bayanov's programmes since
Slovo 's status as non-religious did not allow it to do so, Aminova told
Keston that Bayanov was summoned for questioning following the article's
publication - presumably by the FSB, although no introduction was made by
his interrogator. 'It was like 1937 - he was questioned in a harsh voice by a
man he couldn't see, sitting in the corner of a darkened room, while bright
lights shone in his face. The interrogator said that "they" had ordered the
newspaper article and that if Bayanov tried to make an official complaint
about it he would not leave that room.'

The Udmurtskaya Pravda article does give some indication of its authors'
reasoning for fearing the spread of Protestantism. Noting that Slovo is
'practically financed from the USA,' the article accuses the organisation of
'thrusting alien religious trends on to us.' Such an array of variations of God's
Word, it adds, 'hardly facilitates national unity.' In particular, warns the
article, since many of Slovo's students are children of prominent local
politicians and businessmen who are likely to follow in their footsteps, 'who
knows - suddenly they might become prominent politicians with the shadow
of Uncle Sam looming over them.'(END)

Copyright (c) 2001 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.