Religious Freedom Issues
More Visa Denials
Forum18 News, 9/7/2005
Russia - Catholic bishop Clemens Pickel told Forum 18 that the denial of a new visa to Fr Janusz Blaut in October 2004 after ten years in Russia (the eighth such Catholic visa denial) has left his Vladikavkaz parish without a priest.

By Geraldine Fagan, Forum 18 News Service

Despite being invited by registered local religious communities, foreign
religious workers may still be denied entry to Russia, Forum 18 News
Service has found. Moscow-based religious rights lawyer Anatoli
Pchelintsev estimated to Forum 18 in April 2005 that the number of foreign
religious workers barred from Russia was rising, although this is difficult
to corroborate as many missionaries prefer not to report visa denials.
Those already barred are still unable to return, even if they lead
religious communities within Russia, such as Pastor Aleksei Ledyayev, the
overall leader of congregations of the charismatic New Generation Church
who is based in Latvia, or Baptist pastor Dan Pollard, who has led his
church in Russia's Far East from the United States since his expulsion in
March 1998.

The absence of foreign religious workers is keenly felt by local religious
communities. Speaking to Forum 18 in June, for example, Saratov-based
Catholic bishop Clemens Pickel lamented the lack of a parish priest in
North Ossetia after Polish citizen Fr Janusz Blaut was denied a new visa
in October 2004: "I can't find a priest for Vladikavkaz - it's too far to
send someone every Sunday, and it's only 20km (12 miles) from Beslan. I
can't send an inexperienced young Russian, or a new foreign priest
either." Fr Blaut - the most recent foreign Catholic cleric to be excluded
from Russia - had worked in North Ossetia for ten years.

A few foreign religious workers have been able to overturn their bans,
however. On 5 September a secretary at the Moscow administration of the
Evangelical-Lutheran Church in European Russia told Forum 18 that its
German bishop Siegfried Springer, who was deported in April 2005 (see
F18News 4 May 2005 ),
has since been granted a new one-year multi-entry visa. Also on 5
September, a secretary at the St Petersburg-based Association of Christian
Churches in Russia told Forum 18 that one of its overseers, the South
African Hugo Van Niekerk, who oversees 80 evangelical communities in
central and southern Russia, was denied a visa in July 2005 but has since
managed to return by changing the religious organisation inviting him.

Revered by Buddhists as the ninth Bogdogegen, or spiritual leader of
Mongolia, Jetsun Dhampa Rinpoche was denied a visa in July 2000 but has
since made visits to Russia in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Earlier exclusions

Following Pollard's 1998 ban - the first to be documented - the trend in
such exclusions reached a peak in 2002. The expulsion from Russia of five
Catholic clergy in that year alone brought the total number of documented
cases to 33, and attracted strong international criticism. On 7 November
2002, a group of Helsinki Commission members and US congressmen wrote to
Russian president Vladimir Putin expressing their "growing concern over
the pattern of denial or cancellation of visas for foreign religious
workers of minority faiths." The group also urged "the establishment of a
policy which will ensure the full respect for the right of these religious
communities to select, appoint and replace their personnel in accordance
with their requirements and standards," and pointed out that "artificial
impediments imposed by federal authorities that prevent foreign religious
workers from taking up their clerical responsibilities in the Russian
Federation ultimately undermine the rights of individuals from these
faiths to practice their religion."

Since that letter, however, Forum 18 has obtained details of a further 12
cases, in addition to another seven previously undocumented expulsions
occurring prior to November 2002. (A complete list of foreign religious
workers barred from Russia to date whose details are known to Forum 18 is
given below.) Moscow-based lawyer Sergei Sychev told Forum 18 in April
2005 that he investigated 12 instances of foreign religious workers denied
entry to Russia in 2003 - all Protestant - but stopped recording them in
2004. If the authorities maintain that the foreigner concerned has been
excluded "in the interests of state security" under Article 27, Part 1 of
the federal law on entry to and exit from Russia - as is usual if a reason
is given at all - he or she is normally reluctant to challenge the decision
in court for fear of damaging the religious organisations which invited
them, he added. Under the 1997 federal religion law, local religious
organisations hold "the exclusive right" to invite foreign religious
workers to the Russian Federation.

Editor of the Alabama-based East-West Church and Ministry Report, Mark
Elliott reported in autumn 2003 that he was aware of 53 cases of foreign
religious workers who had been denied entry to Russia in addition to the
33 documented by November 2002. (For further details of some of the cases
listed below, see F18News 28 November 2003
, 16 June 2004
, 18 April 2005
and 4 May 2005

Most of the foreign religious workers barred from Russia since the late
1990s have not been able to return. His visa revoked in April 2002,
Irkutsk-based Polish Catholic bishop Jerzy Mazur has since been replaced
by Belarusian Cyryl Klimowicz, who does not require a visa to enter
Russia. Denied entry in August 2002, Slovak Catholic priest Fr Stanislav
Krajnak reportedly received a visa in 2004 but was summoned back to the
Russian embassy within hours for it to be cancelled. According to Sergei
Sychev, Irkutsk-based US Pentecostal Victor Barousse was denied a visa
even after successfully challenging his August 2002 application rejection
in court. While Dan Pollard's five-year entry ban has expired, Khabarovsk
region's religious affairs official told Forum 18 that he would not be
able to return to his Pacific coast church due to new limitations on
foreign citizens residing within 5km (3 miles) of federal borders (see
F18News 16 June 2004 ).

Previously barred from Russia for several years, the fourteenth Dalai Lama
Tenzin Gyatso was permitted a very brief pastoral visit to the
traditionally Buddhist republic of Kalmykia in late 2004. However, asked
whether he had been invited again in 2005 and if so what the state
authorities' response had been, a spokesman at Moscow's Tibetan Centre
told Forum 18 on 5 September that Russian Buddhists "invite His Holiness
every year. All I can say is that there won't be a visit this year."

Both Sergei Sychev and Svetlana Belova, who deals with invitations and
visa applications for foreign religious workers at the Moscow-based
evangelical Association for Spiritual Renewal, told Forum 18 that foreign
religious workers found it particularly difficult to enter Russia
following a switch in the body handling visa applications from the Foreign
Ministry to the Interior Ministry at the end of 2002. "The Interior
Ministry wouldn't give us multi-entry visas for eight months because the
invitations were from a religious organisation," Belova told Forum 18 in
March 2005. This situation was resolved by mid-2004, she added, and the
Association has never had a foreign religious worker be denied a visa.

Belova did point out, however, that the Interior Ministry takes longer to
process applications, a maximum of five visas may be applied for on any
one day and that, whereas Foreign Ministry officials would take immediate
decisions, "everything now has to be approved at the top, even if the
official dealing with the application is of a perfectly competent rank to
decide". A religious worker from New Zealand recently reported to Forum 18
a 40-day processing period for an invitation to visit a Protestant church
in the Russian Far East. Both Sychev and Catholic representatives (see
F18News 23 November 2004
) reported one
improvement in mid-2004, however: the routine allocation of six- rather
than three-month visas to foreign religious workers.

Religious "expansion" a "threat to national security"

While it predated his leadership, the trend in missionary expulsions has
become more pronounced since Putin came to power in Russia. One of the
first documents Putin signed on becoming acting president in January 2000
was a new national security policy, which cited "cultural-religious
expansion of neighbouring states into Russian territory" among the threats
to national interests and security, and called for "the counteraction of
the negative influence of foreign religious organisations and
missionaries." In addition, an October 2002 draft state report on methods
of counteracting religious extremism expressed concern about the activity
of branches of foreign religious organisations, which, while formally
operating within the law, "often give rise to religious tensions." Mission
by the Catholic Church was cited as one such cause, as well as the growing
influence of some Protestant organisations, which, "under the guise of
providing humanitarian aid, develop self-alienation from the Russian state
among various sectors of the populationů particularly in border areas."

Following last year's change of regime in Ukraine, such concern appears to
be growing. Simply by advocating human rights and social justice, according
to Sychev, Protestant churches are automatically viewed as opponents by the
state authorities in some Russian regions. Commenting on a local
evangelical missionary initiative in Pravda Severo-Zapada newspaper in May
of this year, a spokeswoman for Arkhangelsk regional department of the FSB
security police maintained: "Experience shows that this type of religious
project is usually used as a cover for activity by the secret services of
foreign states." In an August interview with Radonezh Orthodox radio
station, Fr Vsevolod Chaplin, the assistant head of the Moscow
Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations, called on
Orthodox citizens to unite against a Ukrainian-style Orange Revolution,
predicting that Russians would take a more sober view of such a
phenomenon, "just as they have towards the flood of
missionaries-sectarians into our country. It is now clear to everyone that
that was a political method of destroying the country."

Russian Protestant communities in particular are clearly coming under
pressure for their foreign ties. In an interview with Interfax state news
agency in June, Pentecostal bishop Sergei Ryakhovsky remarked: "Someone is
intentionally firing up passions in order to turn Protestants into the
Fifth Column, a tool of the Orange Revolution. But any such provocation is
doomed to failure, as we Russian Protestants are patriots of our country,
we are people with particular respect for the Russian authorities and the
president of Russia. At the height of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, I
spoke out to warn both Protestants and the Orthodox Church, who had
allowed themselves to get caught up in political activity."

Foreign religious workers barred from Russia

This list gives the following details, where known to Forum 18, of foreign
religious workers barred from Russia: Date of non-admittance to the Russian
Federation, Name, Confession, Citizenship, Particular area of activity in
the Russian Federation (if any), Method of non-admittance to the Russian

March 1998, Dan Pollard, Baptist, US, Khabarovsky Krai, Visa denied

April 1999 Warren Wagner, Evangelical, US, Udmurtia, Visa denied

September 1999 Charles Landreth, Church of Christ, US, Volgograd, Visa

October 1999 Pastor Eberhard Behrens, Lutheran, German, Volgograd, Visa

June 2000 David Binkley, Church of Christ, US, Magadan, Visa revoked

June 2000 Junsei Terasawa, Buddhist, Japanese, Visa denied

July 2000 Bogdo-Gegen Jetsun Dhampa Rinpoche IX, Buddhist, Tibetan refugee
status, Visa denied

September 2000 Geoffrey Ryan, Salvation Army, Canadian, Rostov-on-Don,
Visa denied

February 2001 Fr Stanislaw Opiela, Catholic, Polish, Visa denied

Summer 2001, James Mettenbrink, Church of Christ, US, Komi, Visa denied

July 2001 Craig Rucin, Evangelical, US, Udmurtia, Deported

August 2001 Larry Little, Church of Christ, US, Komi, Visa revoked

October 2001, Carl-Gustav Severin, Pentecostal, Swedish, Visa revoked

October 2001 Charles Tharp, Church of Christ, US, Komi, Visa revoked

November 2001 Clayton Whidden, Church of Christ, US, Rostov-on-Don, Visa

December 2001 Br Bruno Maziolek, Catholic, French, Yaroslavl, Visa denied

Early 2002, Anonymous, Pentecostal, Krasnodar, Visa revoked

February 2002 Paul Kim, Evangelical, South Korean, Kalmykia, Visa revoked

February 2002 Autumn Newson, Mormon, US, Pskov, Deported

February 2002 Matthew Crain, Mormon, US, Pskov, Deported

February 2002 Weston Pope, Mormon, US, Pskov, Deported

March 2002, Bob Weiner, Evangelical, US, Kalmykia, Visa denied

Spring 2002, Kim Ge Khen, Presbyterian, South Korean, Khabarovsk, Visa

April 2002 Fr Stefano Caprio, Catholic, Italian, Vladimir, Visa revoked

April 2002 Bishop Jerzy Mazur, Catholic, Polish, Irkutsk, Visa revoked

April 2002, Mun Khi In, Methodist, South Korean, Sakhalin, Visa revoked

June 2002 Pastor Aleksei Ledyayev, Pentecostal, Permanent resident of
Latvia, Visa revoked

June 2002 Ronald Cook, Evangelical, US, Kostroma, Visa denied

June 2002 Virginia Cook, Evangelical, US, Kostroma, Visa denied

Summer 2002, Bill Norton, Pentecostal, US, Kostroma, Visa denied

July 2002 Jeffrey Wollman, Evangelical, US, Kostroma, Visa denied

July 2002 Susan Wollman, Evangelical, US, Kostroma, Visa denied

July 2002 Jordan Wollman, Evangelical, US, Kostroma, Visa denied

August 2002 Fr Stanislav Krajnak, Catholic, Slovak, Yaroslavl, Visa denied

August 2002 Fourteenth Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, Buddhist, Tibetan refugee
status, Visa denied

August 2002 Chalyshan Seidi, Muslim, Turkish, Bashkortostan, Deported

August 2002 Victor Barousse, Pentecostal, US, Irkutsk, Visa denied

September 2002 Fr Jaroslaw Wisniewski, Catholic, Polish, Sakhalin, Visa

September 2002 Fr Eduard Mackiewicz, Catholic, Polish, Rostov-on-Don, Visa

September 2002 Leo Martensson, Evangelical, Swedish, Krasnodar, Visa

November 2002, Randolph Marshall, Evangelical, US, Yaroslavl, Visa revoked

November 2002, Shelley Marshall, Evangelical, US, Yaroslavl, Visa revoked

Late 2002, Jim Capaldo, Evangelical, US, Tuva, Visa denied

Spring 2003, Greg Clark, Pentecostal, US, Altai Republic, Deported

Autumn 2003, Anonymous, Evangelical, US, Tatarstan, Deported

October 2003, Takhir Talipov, Evangelical, Permanent resident Latvia,
Tatarstan, Residency denied

2003, Dana Carbone, Evangelical, US, Mari-El, Visa denied

October 2004, Fr Janusz Blaut, Catholic, Polish, North Ossetia, Visa

March 2005, Robert Garrard, Salvation Army, British, Moscow, Visa denied

March 2005, Karl Lydholm, Salvation Army, Danish, Moscow, Visa denied

April 2005, Bishop Siegfried Springer, Lutheran, German, European, Visa

July 2005, Hugo Van Niekerk, Evangelical, South African, Central &
Southern, Visa denied
© Forum18 News