International

US lists Russia as religious freedom offender

New Europe - Elena Pavlovska

The United States has added Russia to its special watchlist for governments that engage in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom”, secretary of state Mike Pompeo said on Monday.

Pompeo also announced that the US had designated Pakistan, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Nigeria, North Korea, Myanmar and Eritrea as “countries of particular Concern” under its International Religious Freedom Act.

Russia was placed on the watchlist alongside Comoros, Cuba and Nicaragua.

Last year, the State Department accused Russia of persecuting members of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Hizb ut-Tahrir, two religious organizations that are officially banned in Russia.

Russia’s law allows for the government to impose restrictions on religious rights to protect the country’s security and constitutional structure. The four recognized religions in the country are Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism.

About 65% of Russia’s population belongs to the Orthodox Christian Church and 7% identify as Muslim.

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