Reportedly, the hunt for Jehovah's Witnesses by the local authorities is forcing people to relocate to Finland and other European countries.
Following the ban on the religious group by Russia's Supreme Court, The Barents Observer reports that members are being hunted down by the Russian security agency, and the Russian National Guard.
On Friday, April 20, 2018, two Jehovah's Witnesses were arrested in a Russian town called Polyarny. They were detained after raids in at least six locations, according to the regional authorities' newspaper, Murmanski Vestnik.
Raids like this, followed by other forms of persecution, are forcing members of the religious group to abandon the country.
They started fleeing Russia in 2017. Now there are about 1,000 Russians in Finland and other European countries.
According to Veikko Leininen, the spokesperson for Jehovah's Witnesses Finland branch, "Many dozens at least are still to come."
On April 20, 2017, the Russian Supreme Court banned Jehovah's Witnesses and officially labeled them as an extremist organization!
The ruling also stated that any Russian found to be a member would be jailed for six to ten years. Its been one year since the court's decision and things have gone from bad to terrible.
Reportedly, 17 properties have been confiscated, while there are ongoing lawsuits to seize another 52 properties.
Jaroslav Sivulsky, a representative of the European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses, says, "After the decision of the Supreme Court, there was a surge of religious intolerance in the country. Between March 15, 2017, and April 1, 2018, the "European Association of Jehovah's Witnesses" received information, and far from complete, approximately 250 violations of the rights of believers, including attacks, vandalism, various kinds of discrimination, dismissals and the like.
"…We know of 27 cases of vandalism. Most often this is insulting inscriptions, damage to buildings where believers live or where divine services were held before. In 7 cases, significant damage was caused. 13 citizens reported that after the decision of the Supreme Court were dismissed or forced to resign at their own will because of their religious beliefs."
With this level of persecution, who can blame Jehovah's Witnesses for leaving Russia?