Russia Cancels Protestant Pastor’s Visa

RIGA, Latvia, JULY 18, 2002 ( Russian authorities have unexpectedly canceled the visa of a Protestant pastor, the latest in a series of moves against non-Orthodox religious figures.

Latvia-based pastor Aleksei Ledyayev’s visa was abruptly canceled June 7 by border guards as he tried to enter the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, the Keston News Service reported. The pastor said he still doesn’t know why he ended up on Russia’s entry blacklist.

Ledyayev’s blacklisting followed the abrupt canceling of visas for Catholic Bishop Jerzy Mazur of the Diocese of St. Joseph of Irkutsk, and Italian Father Stefano Caprio.

Ledyayev, an ethnic Russian who moved from Kazakhstan to Riga at the end of the Soviet period, is senior pastor of New Generation Church, a network of 150 houses of worship around the world. Like hundreds of thousands of ethnic Russians in Latvia, he has been denied Latvian citizenship, but has permanent residency there.

Letters from pastors and leaders of New Generation Church in Russia to senior officials, including President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, have gone unanswered.