Russia to Restrict Foreign Religious Sects

MOSCOW, OCT. 24, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The Russian government plans to restrict the activity of foreign religious sects and religious extremists, Russian news agencies report.

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Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko said the Foreign, Interior and Justice Ministries would be ordered to make recommendations for legislative amendments tightening control over foreign religious activists in Russia, the ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agencies reported.

«Sometimes such people come to Russia for a year and no one knows for sure what exactly they are doing in our country,» Matviyenko was quoted as saying by Interfax.

She said that the legislation should not affect the representatives of legitimate religious organizations, but that it should prevent people from using religion as a disguise for extremist activities.

Matviyenko also said that police and visa authorities would be asked to increase control over the foreign activists, ITAR-Tass reported.

Many religious organizations, including foreign-based ones, have protested legal restrictions in the current Russian law on religion, which they say limits religious freedoms in Russia. The law, championed by the dominant Russian Orthodox Church, requires religious groups to register with Russian authorities.

Some groups have been unable to get their congregations officially registered while the representatives of others have been denied entry visas, the Associated Press said.

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