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Russia Chapter - 2017 Annual Report

Russia Chapter - 2017 Annual Report

Russian Translation

Learn more about Bagir Kazikhanov, a Religious Prisoner of Conscience in Russia.

Key Findings

Russia represents a unique case among the countries in this report—it is the sole state to have not only continually intensified its repression of religious freedom since USCIRF commenced monitoring it, but also to have expanded its repressive policies to the territory of a neighboring state, by means of military invasion and occupation. Those policies, ranging from administrative harassment to arbitrary imprisonment to extrajudicial killing, are implemented in a fashion that is systematic, ongoing, and egregious. In mainland Russia in 2016, new laws effectively criminalized all private religious speech not sanctioned by the state, the Jehovah’s Witnesses stand on the verge of a nationwide ban, and innocent Muslims were tried on fabricated charges of terrorism and extremism. In the North Caucasus, particularly in Chechnya and Dagestan, security forces carried out arrests, kidnappings, and disappearances of persons suspected of any links to “nontraditional” Islam with impunity. In Crimea, occupied by Russia since 2014, Russian authorities have coopted the spiritual life of the Muslim Crimean Tatar minority and arrested or driven into exile its community representatives. And in the Russian-occupied para-states of eastern Ukraine, religious freedom is at the whim of armed militias not beholden to any legal authority. Nor did Russia show any tolerance for critics of these policies in 2016; the two most prominent domestic human rights groups that monitor freedom of religion or belief were officially branded as “foreign agents.” Based on these particularly severe violations, in 2017 USCIRF for the first time finds that Russia merits designation as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. USCIRF has been monitoring and reporting on Russia since its first annual report in 2000.

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