The LDS members were found guilty of proselytizing.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said two of its volunteers detained by Russian local police in the first week of March is undergoing deportation proceedings. Both of them were taken away from their regular duties when they were attending a meeting in Novorossiysk. The latter is a port city lying on the Black Sea coast.
As per church officials, the two young men are in custody while their deportation arrangements are processed. The U.S. State Department is aware of this event. According to a statement released by the State Department, Washington prioritized the protection of Americans abroad but declined to provide further information on this matter, citing privacy concerns. Three Utah politicians, Senator Mike Lee, Senator Mitt Romney, and Representative John Curtis, have offered their assistance. As per Tass, the Moscow controlled news agency, an official of the Russian Orthodox Church told them the two used to conduct religious activities within Russia under the guise of English teachers.
Eric Hawkins, the spokesperson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, assured the public the men are being treated well while undergoing deportation proceedings. He said both continue to have a positive outlook and regularly have contact with their families and the respective mission presidents. Hawkins said The Church is cooperating with the local authorities to ensure the two return to the United States as quickly as possible.
Yuri Kozhokin, a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints representative in Russia, told Russian media the two detained Americans were not teachers. They merely talked with some Russian citizens who approached them using their own free will. The subjects discussed were not linked to religion, and the complete interaction was in English. The attorney representing the two men, Sergei Glizuntsa, said they have no complaints about the detention conditions.
According to Tass, the Primorsky District Court of Novorossiysk gave the two American citizens a guilty verdict on charges of violating Russia’s stringent entry rules and exit strictures on March 2. The two are now locked up inside a temporary center assigned for foreigners in the town of Gulkevichi awaiting deportation.