WASHINGTON (RNS) — In an unsealed affidavit this week charging 29-year-old Mariia Butina with “conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation” was buried a peculiar detail: Butina, a Russian citizen living in the U.S., allegedly sought to influence U.S. officials not only through organizations such as the National Rifle Association, but also by exploiting the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event in Washington, D.C.
Russian officials continue to expand the implementation of last year’s new law targeting missionary and evangelistic activities, including into the region of Crimea that Russia snatched from Ukraine in 2014. Analysis by Forum 18 also shows that during the first year of the law — which went into effect on July 20, 2016 after being signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin — officials used the law in 181 cases involving 129 individuals and 52 religious communities.
Six months after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new law targeting missionary and evangelistic activities, Baptists and others in the country face large fines and other penalties. The new law went into effect on July 20. Authorities prosecuted at least 32 cases in the first six months after the law went into force. Two Baptists were among the first charged in the law’s first month and other Baptists are now finding themselves targeted.