Date:                          April 27, 2023


Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) denounced Russia’s forcible closure of the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, a nongovernmental organization that conducts research on freedom of religion or belief issues in Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea. Today, the Moscow City Court ordered SOVA’s liquidation after the Ministry of Justice claimed it had violated its charter by participating in activities outside of Moscow.

“For more than two decades, SOVA has thoroughly documented Russian religious freedom violations, particularly through the use of problematic legislation such as Russia’s extremism law. Amid the Russian government’s incessant efforts to decimate civil society and censor independent media, SOVA courageously and tirelessly reported on routine violations committed against Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Protestant Christians, and others,” said Vice Chair Abraham Cooper. “SOVA’s closure has nothing to do with enforcing the ‘rule of law’ but rather is a blatant attempt to silence independent reporting and shield the Russian government from accountability for its myriad of human rights abuses.”

Since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the human rights situation in Russia has deteriorated severely as authorities have continued to clamp down on human rights organizations, religious minorities, and opponents to the war. In 2022, the government shut down the Memorial Human Rights Center following several court orders and revoked the registration of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. In January 2023, a court similarly ordered the closure of the Moscow Helsinki Group, the country’s oldest human rights organization. In recent months, authorities have increasingly engaged in efforts to intimidate and silence human rights defenders.

“SOVA’s closure comes amid an unprecedented crackdown on human rights organizations and independent media in Russia, including those documenting freedom of religion or belief violations. More and more, the Russian government has leveraged its laws on foreign agents, undesirable organizations, discrediting the armed forces, and even ‘rehabilitating Nazism’ to sabotage the critical work these organizations do,” said Commissioner Sharon Kleinbaum. “The discontinuation of SOVA’s work will be a huge loss for the Russian people and religious freedom advocates. We urge the U.S. government to support independent Russian civil society actors, including those in exile.”

In its 2022 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended the U.S. government redesignate Russia as a “Country of Particular Concern,” or CPC, for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom. In November 2022, the U.S. Department of State redesignated Russia as a CPC. In March of this year, USCIRF held a hearing on Russia’s religious freedom violations in Ukraine and Russia following its 2022 invasion of Ukraine.



The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a commissioner, please contact USCIRF at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.