KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 14 May 2001

I. TURKMENISTAN: ASHGABAD KNB PRESSURES ATAKOVS TO
EMIGRATE. Baptist prisoner Shageldy Atakov has been taken to the
Turkmen capital Ashgabad in an apparent bid to persuade him and his family
to agree to leave the country for the United States, Keston News Service has
learnt. Atakov's wife Artygyul was also brought to the Ashgabad
headquarters of the country's political police, the KNB (former KGB) to see
her husband. The two have told the KNB that they have no wish to leave.
The KNB have reportedly told Shageldy that if they refuse to emigrate he
will be made to serve his full sentence.

II. RUSSIA: CHIEF ARCHITECT BLOCKS PROTESTANTS FROM
USING OWN CHURCH. A Protestant church in Vyborg, a town in
Leningrad region 30 kilometres (20 miles) from the Finnish border, has been
unable to restore or even use a building it bought in 1998, as the region's
chief architect has blocked the transfer of the site from industrial to public
use. Chief architect Anatoli Dychinsky told Keston News Service he will
make `no concessions', but it remains unclear how much he was influenced
in the decision by a letter he allegedly received from the head of the Russian
Orthodox Church, Patriarch Aleksi, warning against transfers of land to
Protestant churches.

I. TURKMENISTAN: ASHGABAD KNB PRESSURES ATAKOVS TO
EMIGRATE

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Baptist prisoner Shageldy Atakov has been brought from the Interior
Ministry prison in the Caspian port of Turkmenbashi (formerly
Krasnovodsk) to the Turkmen capital Ashgabad in an apparent bid to
persuade him and his family to agree to leave the country for the United
States, Keston News Service has learnt. The German-based Friedensstimme
mission told Keston on 12 May that earlier that day the authorities had also
brought Atakov's wife Artygyul from her home in internal exile in the town
of Kaakhka for a meeting with her husband at the Ashgabad headquarters of
the country's political police, the KNB (former KGB). The two have told the
KNB separately and jointly that they have no wish to leave. The KNB have
reportedly told Shageldy that if they refuse to emigrate he will be made to
serve his full sentence.

Atakov - a member of a congregation of the Council of Churches of
Evangelical Christians/Baptists - is serving a four year sentence on charges
fellow Baptists believe were fabricated to punish him for his activity in the
Baptist church in Turkmenbashi, where he was arrested in December 1998.
His sentence runs until December next year. There is no news on Atakov's
current state of health, which has been poor. He was reportedly close to
death at the beginning of the year after being beaten and forcibly treated with
psychotropic drugs.

The Friedensstimme mission - which maintains close ties with congregations
of the Council of Churches in the former Soviet republics - reported that the
Turkmen authorities had separately made the emigration offer to both
Shageldy and Artygyul a week earlier, and both had refused, declaring that
they wanted to remain in their homeland.

Atakov was transferred from labour camp in Seydy to the Turkmenbashi
prison on 23 March, and five days later was placed in two-month
`quarantine', depriving him of access to mail and parcels (see KNS 24 April
2001).

From early March, Artygyul and their five children have been under intense
pressure in internal exile in the town of Kaakhka. Artygyul has been
pressured by the local mullah, administration officials and KNB officers to
convert to Islam and she was threatened with being deprived of her parental
rights after her children refused to participate in the school ceremony of
reading the oath of allegiance to President Saparmurat Niyazov and kissing
the flag.

Turkmenistan is the most religiously repressive of all the former Soviet
republics. Most religious faiths are in effect banned, rendering all religious
practice by Protestants, Armenian Apostolic Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses,
Bahais, Jews, Hare Krishna devotees and Muslims outside the framework of
the officially-sanctioned Muslim Board liable to punishment. (END)

II. RUSSIA: CHIEF ARCHITECT BLOCKS PROTESTANTS FROM
USING OWN CHURCH

by Aleksandr Shchipkov, Keston News Service

A Protestant church in Vyborg, a town in Leningrad region 30 kilometres
(20 miles) from the Finnish border, has been unable to restore or even use a
building it bought in 1998, as the region's chief architect has blocked the
transfer of the site from industrial to public use. Chief architect Anatoli
Dychinsky told Keston News Service he will make `no concessions', but it
remains unclear how much he was influenced in the decision by a letter he
allegedly received from the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch
Aleksi, warning against transfers of land to Protestant churches.

The Christian Church, one of the largest Protestant churches in Vyborg,
bought a former workshop put on the market when the owner, an instrument-
making factory, went bankrupt. According to the church's pastor, Andrei
Furmanov, in order to meet pastoral and social challenges the church
purposely bought the building on the edge of an industrial area near a new
residential complex `Yuzhny Posyolok' (Southern settlement), where a large
number of under-privileged youth live. The building needs restoration.

Pastor Furmanov told Keston in Vyborg on 27 April that although the
church's draft plans were approved by the town's health and safety officials,
for work to begin the church required permission for `a change to the
designated use of the land' from industrial to public.

The church's administrator, Yelena Chernyshova, who was also present
when Keston spoke to Furmanov, reported that when she met chief architect
Dychinsky on 27 February to discuss a change in the designated use of the
land, he `curtly' refused permission. According to Chernyshova, Dychinsky
said he had received a letter from Patriarch Aleksi asking him not to give
land to Protestant churches. Chernyshova thought this claim absurd and
asked him to show her the letter, but Dychinsky refused.

Speaking to Keston by telephone, Dychinsky admitted that the former shop
building did indeed legally belong to the church, but said he would never
allow a church to be set up there as the site was in an industrial area.

Asked whether, in principle, churches - along with other public buildings,
such as clubs, shops and clinics - might be located in an industrial zone,
Dychinsky replied in the affirmative, but added: `We have not planned for a
church to be built on this particular site. As an architectural building, a
church should embellish the city, but here there is nothing to embellish, so
let the Christian Church use its property for industrial purposes.' Pastor
Furmanov reported that the church plans to have a hall for services and a
psychiatric support centre for young families in the building, and that it is
not planning to engage in manufacturing. `The church has other tasks.'

Chernyshova said the church is currently renting various halls for services,
while all its social work is carried out in the private apartments of church
members, whose numbers are, she said, rising constantly. She stressed that
the church had not experienced any opposition from Vyborg town
administration.

Asked what must happen before he would change his attitude to the church,
Dychinsky told Keston: `I am not a believer, I am responsible for town
planning, and I won't make any concessions for the Christian Church.'
(END)

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