KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 19 March 2001

I. TURKMENISTAN: PROTESTANTS BEATEN, FLATS
CONFISCATED. At least six Protestant Christians have been summoned
and beaten by Turkmenistan�s political police, the KNB (former KGB), in
several towns and villages in the north of the country in the past six months,
while two Protestant families have had their homes confiscated, Keston
News Service has learned from sources who preferred to remain anonymous
for fear of further repressive measures against them.

II. RUSSIA: DUMA INVESTIGATES MEASURES TO �PREVENT THE
SPREAD OF CATHOLICISM�. The State Duma of the Russian Federation
has instructed its Committee for International Affairs to ask the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs for information about measures taken to �prevent the spread
of Catholicism� on the territory of Russia and other Orthodox states, Keston
News Service learned from an employee of the Committee, on 12 March. A
Duma expert believes there is no need to take the inquiry seriously, but it has
aroused astonishment and disquiet among Russian Catholics.

I. TURKMENISTAN: PROTESTANTS BEATEN, FLATS
CONFISCATED

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

At least six Protestant Christians have been summoned and beaten by
Turkmenistan�s political police, the KNB (former KGB), in several towns
and villages in the north of the country in the past six months, at least three
of them since the beginning of the year, Keston News Service has learned.
Sources who preferred to remain anonymous declined to allow publication
of the dates and locations of the incidents, or of the denominational
affiliation of the Protestants involved, for fear of further repressive measures
against them.

The sources also reported that flats belonging to two Protestant families in
the same area, believed by the authorities to have been used for religious
activity, have been confiscated in the past months. Since the seizure of their
homes, the two families are reported to have fled Turkmenistan illegally to
escape further harassment. Again, sources declined to allow publication of
the names of the families, their denomination or where they lived.

Raids, detentions and beatings by the KNB on minority religious
communities are frequent in Turkmenistan and are believed to be increasing
as the government steps up its policy of eradicating all religious activity by
non-Muslim and non-Russian Orthodox groups. Particularly singled out for
maltreatment have been Baptist and Pentecostal Christians, as well as
Jehovah�s Witnesses and Hare Krishna devotees. Two churches in the
capital Ashgabad � the Pentecostal and Baptist churches � have been
confiscated in recent months. Among other religious communities whose
activity is deemed to be illegal are the Jews, Armenian Apostolic Christians,
Lutherans and Bahais, as well as Muslims outside the framework of the
officially-sanctioned Muslim Board. (END)

II. RUSSIA: DUMA INVESTIGATES MEASURES TO �PREVENT THE
SPREAD OF CATHOLICISM�

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

The State Duma of the Russian Federation has instructed its Committee for
International Affairs to ask the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for information
about measures taken to �prevent the spread of Catholicism� on the territory
of Russia and other Orthodox states, Keston News Service learned from
Nikolai Barkov, an employee of the Committee, on 12 March. The inquiry
has aroused astonishment and disquiet among Russian Catholics. The
originator of the committee�s inquiry was the deputy chairman of the State
Duma, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of
Russia.

On 9 March, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, chairman of the
Conference of Catholic Bishops in the Russian Federation and Apostolic
Administrator for Latin-rite Catholics in northern European Russia issued an
appeal in which he expressed his concern and also his regret at the fact that
�an inquiry at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has been formulated, in
our view, so inadequately, has been given the official status of a document,
issued in the name of so authoritative and respected an agency of power as
the State Duma�. �We are a long way away from a situation where we would
interpret the inquiry as the start of a serious political campaign, and are
inclined to ascribe it to a sort of misunderstanding that has arisen through
lack of information�, reads the Archbishop�s appeal.

At Zhirinovsky�s press office, Keston was told that the inquiry was
connected to the impending visit to Ukraine by Pope John Paul II, and also
with a February meeting in the Vatican between the Roman Pontiff and the
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. According to the press office,
Zhirinovsky gave his detailed opinion of the Pope�s visit to Ukraine in an
interview on 13 March, the text of would be distributed later.

A specialist on religious organisations at the State Duma�s Committee for
matters relating to public associations and religious organisations, Stepan
Medvedko, interviewed by Keston on 12 March, believes that �there�s no
need to take the inquiry seriously�. �The answer from the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs will be that there is no threat of Catholic expansionism,� he suggests.
(END)