Staunton, July 25 – Now that the Russian Supreme Court has confirmed the government’s notion that the Jehovah’s Witnesses must be banned as “extremist” and that new polls show Russians overwhelmingly accept the Kremlin’s line that they aren’t even a religion, some Witnesses in Russia are planning to seek asylum in Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s Belarus.
That they should be doing so is perhaps the most appropriate indictment of Vladimir Putin’s regime, given that Lukashenka’s has a well-deserved reputation for oppression but has not banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses although it has restricted their activities in the Belarusian capital (activatica.org/blogs/view/id/3705/title/svideteli-iegovy-ishchut-ubezhishche and facebook.com/notes/anton-chivchalov-blog/вопросы-и-ответы-о-белоруссии/245227352633572/).
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are now placing their hopes in an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, but their leaders recognize that is a long shot, not because they do not have a good case but because the Kremlin often ignores that body’s decisions and in any case no decision will be reached before Moscow will have suppressed the Witnesses at home
Indeed, their leaders warn that the sweeping and totally unconstitutional decision of the Russian Supreme Court opens the way to the suppression of any religious group that Vladimir Putin’s regime does not happen to like, a reality that should be generating more protests in the West than it has so far
What is especially disturbing is that most Russians back Putin’s moves against the Jehovah’s Witnesses. According to a new VTsIOM poll, 80 percent of Russians who have heard about them do not believe they are a religious group and 76 percent support banning them as extremist (ruskline.ru/news_rl/2017/07/25/rossiyane_odobryayut_zapret_deyatelnosti_iegovistov/).