WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomes the introduction of the Ukraine Religious Freedom Support Act (H.R. 5408), which calls on the President to take into account Russia’s religious freedom violations in Russia-occupied Crimea and Russia-controlled Donbas when determining “country of particular concern” (CPC) designation under the International Religious Freedom Act. The bill also urges the U.S. government to place visa sanctions on Russian officials responsible for these violations, along with their families.
USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins stated, “USCIRF is encouraged to see Members of Congress taking leadership in a bipartisan way to hold Russia accountable for targeting religious communities in Crimea and Donbas. Church and mosque closures, confiscation of property, prosecution of clergy, and harassment and intimidation of religious groups have become commonplace. Russia has targeted Muslim Crimean Tartars in especially brutal ways. We believe this legislation will help draw attention to Russia’s savage attempts to silence religious expression in these regions.”
“USCIRF has been calling for the designation of Russia as a CPC since 2017 and has been reporting on Russian religious freedom violations in Crimea and the controlled territories since 2014,” said Vice Chair Gayle Manchin. “We urge the Trump Administration to move Russia off its Special Watch List for religious freedom violators and to designate it as a CPC, which is warranted given the Russian government’s repressive activities both in Russia and abroad, as in Crimea and the Donbas region.”
USCIRF’s 2019 Annual Report chapter on Russia details the country’s religious freedom abuses against multiple religious communities across the country, in addition to its activities in Ukraine.