Although Russia is a secular state with an atheist past, the regime favours the Russian Orthodox Church, which can mean problems for other denominations. Non-traditional Protestant churches are accused by the Russian Orthodox Church of stealing their members. Since 2011, several legal restrictions have shown a trend towards greater state control and more isolation from the West, which has affected denominations that are seen as “Western”. Meanwhile, in the Muslim-dominated Chechnya and Dagestan republics, converts to Christianity are considered traitors to their national identity. In July 2016, President Vladimir Putin signed into law what some commentators referred to as an “anti-missionary bill”. The Yarovaya Law was formally introduced as an “anti-terrorism” measure, allowing the government to monitor extremist groups. However, Russia’s Christians have also been affected, particularly missionaries, who need a permit, and “house churches”, which are now illegal, as religious activity is only allowed inside registered buildings. Maximum fines are $780 for individuals or $15,000 for organisations. In August 2016 American missionary Don Ossewaarde was fined $640 for holding a church service in his home. He took his case to Russia’s Supreme Court and then, in March 2017, to the European Court for Human Rights. (Photo: Fred Inklaar via Flickr; CC 2.0)

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A ‘dire time for human rights in Russia’ as World Cup begins

The 2018 FIFA World Cup started today with a kick-off at the Luzhniki stadium in the capital Moscow. (Photo: Sandra Montanez - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

“This is a very dire time for human rights in Russia,” according to the Russia programme director for Human Rights Watch, Tanya Lokshina, speaking ahead of the start of the 2018 Football World Cup, which kicked off in Moscow earlier today. Since Vladimir Putin became Russia’s president again in 2012 […]

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Russia: new ruling could reduce prosecutions under ‘anti-missionary’ law

Russia's Constitutional Court

Lawyers working for Christian and other minority religious organisations in Russia have welcomed a Constitutional Court ruling over the country’s so-called “anti-missionary law”, reports regional news agency Forum 18. The March ruling helps to partially clarify what is missionary activity. It stated that “giving information about religious events would constitute […]

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Russia’s religious communities face ‘unclear’ requirements

Russia’s religious communities face ‘unclear’ requirements

Legal requirements applied to the expression of freedom of religion in Russia impose a significant burden on religious communities not recognised by the state – in the shape of fines, legal costs and bureaucracy – reports regional news agency Forum 18. The requirements are “unclear” and applied “inconsistently”, Forum 18 […]

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Rights group tells Russia to ‘properly respect’ religious freedom

Rights group tells Russia to ‘properly respect’ religious freedom

Religious freedom advocate ADF International is today (7 March) filing a third-party brief with the European Court of Human Rights, arguing “for the right to religious freedom to be properly respected in Russia”. (Such a brief is a statement by a third party, usually an NGO or academic, which has […]

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Russia: ‘Extremist’ identified after five women killed in Dagestan church attack

Dagestan mosque

Authorities in one of the least stable parts of Russia have identified the suspected gunman who killed five women at a church yesterday (18 February) before being shot dead by security forces. The mayoral office in Kizlyar, in the restive and ethnically diverse region of Dagestan, named the assailant as […]

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US agency accuses Russia of abusing anti-extremism laws

US agency accuses Russia of abusing anti-extremism laws

Russia’s anti-extremism laws are being used to crack down on peaceful religious minorities such as Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Hare Krishnas, the top US religious-freedom watchdog says. A report commissioned by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) found that “vague and problematic definitions of ‘extremism’ in Russian law […]

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Russia pledges to safeguard future of Christians in Middle East

A mosaic of Jesus pictured as an icon in a church in Homs, was vandalised by Islamic fundamentalists, October 2017. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Sergey Lavrov, says the peaceful co-existence of different religious groups in the Middle East, and particularly safeguarding the future of Christians, is one of Russia’s policy goals for the region. He was speaking at the third Mediterranean Dialogues summit in Rome on 1 and 2 December, […]

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