U.S. Says Religious Freedoms Restricted in Russia

U.S. Says Religious Freedoms Restricted in Russia
The Moscow Times
The rights of Jehovah’s witnesses and other religious groups are being restricted in Russia, the U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report states.

The report, released Friday by the department’s Bureau of Democracy Human Rights and Labor, also noted that the country’s security services continued to view some Muslim groups as a national security threat and that religiously motivated violence persisted.

The report groups Russia with 19 other nations cited for both curbing religious freedom and taking some positive steps to promote it. The group includes Afghanistan, China, Cuba and Iran.

“There were indications that the security services, including the Federal Security Service increasingly treated the leadership of some minority religious groups as specific threats,” the report states. “Popular attitudes toward traditionally Muslim ethnic groups are negative in many regions, and there are manifestations of anti-Semitism as well as hostility towards Roman Catholics and other non-Orthodox denominations.”

The report cites a high-profile knife attack in January at a Moscow synagogue. Nine people were injured in that incident.

On Friday, Alexander Koptsev was sentenced to 16 years in prison for the attack. The report praised President Vladimir Putin for quickly condemning the attack.

The report also lamented that Jehovah’s Witnesses had been banned in Moscow since 2004.

Representatives of the group in St. Petersburg did not answer the phone Monday.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman, who declined to give his name, refused to comment on the report Monday.

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