A pro-Kremlin youth group is calling for a ban on all Mormon missionaries in Russia, alleging the LDS proselytizers are "potential American spies" and that many join the FBI or CIA after their two-year church service.
The group, the youth wing of the country’s ruling party, staged a protest Thursday in front of the Utah-based church’s Moscow headquarters, USA Today reported, holding signs that read, among other slogans, "No, to foreign agents!"
Similar protests were also scheduled outside Mormon missions in St. Petersburg, Samara, Novosibirsk, and Vladivostok, according to Radio Free Europe.
These protests came in the wake of statements made by Russian President Vladimir Putin "condemning alleged foreign influence in domestic affairs and calling for an end to the presence of nongovernmental organizations with foreign links that promote democracy and civil society."
In a statement on its website, the Youth Guard said it was hoping to attract attention to the "questionable activities of totalitarian sects operating in Russia, in particular, the sect of the Mormons."
Elena Nechiporova, director of LDS public affairs for Eastern Europe, was quoted as saying that "the allegations that the Mormon missionaries are foreign agents is baseless."
Indeed, she said, "preaching the gospel is our main goal."
Peggy Fletcher Stack
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