Commenting on the International Religious Freedom Report for 2017 compiled by the US State Department, Alexander Kudryavtsev, chairman of the Council of the Russian Association for the Defense of Religious Freedom criticized the document and described it as a political instrument rather than an honest and unbiased assessment.
For example, while the document describes in detail the measures implemented against Jehovah’s Witnesses by the Russian government, it does not mention the Russian authorities’ point of view on this issue, creating the impression that the religious group’s representatives helped co-author the paper, he notes.
The report also blasts Russian anti-extremism legislation and criticizes the Russian Orthodox Church for allegedly persecuting religious minorities.
Additionally, the paper essentially reflects "the views of opposition groups and biased media resources" in order to criticize Russia’s policies in the religious sphere, and while the document’s authors were keen to engage in dialogue with the religious minorities, they apparently neglected to provide details of their alleged meetings with "the leaders of the traditional religions."
According to Kudryavtsev, the report focuses on a few isolated episodes, like the scandal caused by some Russian MPs discussing the alleged role of Jews in protests against the transfer of the St. Isaacs’ Cathedral in St. Petersburg to the Russian Orthodox Church, in a bid to accuse Russian authorities of antisemitism.
All in all, Kudryavtsev surmised, the report caters to the interests of the US establishment and serves as an instrument that allows Washington to meddle in the internal affairs of countries whose perceptions of the “freedom of conscience” differ from that of the US leadership’s.
He also declared that the experts of the Russian Association for the Defense of Religious Freedom would continue to uphold “the principles of peaceful religious coexistence in Russia” and would strive to prevent any attempts by foreign actors to “use the religious situation in Russia” in order to exert pressure on the country.