Russia’s persecution of religious groups has become much more severe since its invasion of Ukraine.
That’s according to experts who testified before the United States’ top religious freedom advisory body.
They told the US Commission on International Religious Freedom that they fear for the Jewish community in Russia and that Christian values are being “demonised.”
The exiled former chief rabbi of Moscow urged Jews to get out of Russia for their own safety.
Rachel Denber from Human Rights Watch accused the Kremlin of muzzling Russian citizens as it escalates its repression to eradicate public dissent.
“Efforts to annihilate civil society are related to religious persecution in three main ways. Firstly, authorities abuse Russia’s extremism and terrorism laws to persecute religious minorities and silence secular critics. Secondly, they eradicate autonomous initiatives that have an approach to public affairs that differs from that of the authority or that outright challenge them. Thirdly, they promote traditional values as well as demonise culture and ideas that appear to conflict with these values,” Ms. Denber said.
The human rights researcher asserted that the government is “suspicious” of institutions, regardless of whether they’re non-governmental organisations or religious, as these institutions are outside of the government’s control.
“So, if the government can’t control a religious community, the impulse is to deem it a threat to Russian traditional values,” she added.
The US State Department identifies Russia as a Country of Particular Concern for engaging in severe religious freedom violations.
It has imposed economic sanctions as well as export controls and tariffs.