2005-11-18 15:37:00

U.S. stance on religious freedom in Russia surprising - official

Moscow, November 18, Interfax - Russia is surprised by an annual U.S. State Department report that places Russia in the same group with countries where the rights of certain religious groups are trampled on, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin told Interfax on Friday.

"The Russian Foreign Ministry is bewildered by the persistence with which the U.S. State Department is trying to label this country as a nation allegedly having problems with guaranteeing religious freedoms," Kamynin said.

"Our stance on the issue is well-known," he said. "Several times we have given explanations to our American colleagues at different levels about the biased criticism of the Russian Federation expressed year after year in State Department reports on religious issues," he said.

Kamynin said the timing of the announcement was worth noting. Journalists at U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's news conference were more interested in reports of secret CIA prisons than in "the State Department's black list of countries," he said.

"Instead of answering questions on this touchy matter for the American administration, that is justly arousing concern around the world, the U.S. Secretary of State preferred, as the media noted, to speak of the difference between the Soviet Union and present-day Russia where people are allegedly grateful to the United States for assistance in promoting democratic values," Kamynin said.

"As for the annual report of the State Department on the freedom of religion in the world, unfortunately, it remains biased and politicized when it comes to Russia," he said.

"However, the true state of freedoms in the country is more important for Russians than the mistaken evaluations of State Department experts," Kamynin said.