Mormon missionaries reportedly plan to remain in Russia as new restrictions on proselytizing go into effect in mid-July.
According to the new regulations, missionary work can only be conducted by registered organizations. Groups could be fined hundreds of dollars for preaching or praying in private residences, the Associated Press notes. The regulations also reportedly limit all religious activity to registered places of worship, outlawing the traditional methods of evangelizing used by Mormons and other groups.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) released a statement July 8 noting that the new law could affect its missionaries in the country.
"The Church will honor, sustain and obey the law," the statement reads. "Missionaries will remain in Russia and will work within the requirements of these changes. The Church will further study and analyze the law and its impact as it goes into effect."
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom denounced the law, condemning the use of “sweeping powers to curtail civil liberties,” the AP reports.
On July 7, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the regulations into law amid criticism from human rights and free speech activists, reported The New York Times.
The new rules are part of a large package of counterterrorism measures known as the Yarovaya Law, named for Irina A. Yarovaya, a major proponent of the legislation.
The law reportedly calls for prison sentences of up to a year for citizens who fail to report terrorist activities. The law also requires telecommunications companies to store phone and message records for six months and give the government greater access to customer data.
“#Putin has signed a repressive new law that violates not only human rights, but common sense,” tweeted Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor now living in Russia, according to The Washington Post. "Dark day for #Russia."
The New York Times reported that the law came as a response to the October 2015 bombing of a Russian passenger jet over Egypt that killed 224.