New Creation’s leader in Omsk was told that Article 239.1 of the Russian Criminal Code makes “psychological abuse” a crime.
by Massimo Introvigne
On March 12, 2023, the Kirovsky District Court of Omsk, Russia, sentenced Pastor Stanislav Moskvitin to one and a half years to be spent in a penal colony. Moskvitin had been arrested on July 18, 2021. He is the pastor of the Apostolic Center Church “New Creation,” which is part of the Russian Council of Christian Evangelical Churches.
As we reported in Bitter Winter when the trial started in September 22, New Creation was founded in 2014 and registered in 2016. It is part of a network of Russian-speaking conservative Evangelical churches established in Russia, the Baltic States, and the United States. They supported in the past Putin and Patriarch Kirill’s criticism of Western LGBT activism. However, they were denounced as “cults” by the Russian Orthodox Church because they proselytize and convert Orthodox believers to their Protestant faith.
The verdict is interesting because it is based on Article 239, no.1, of the Russian Criminal Code, which punishes the “creation of a religious or public association, whose activities are associated with violence against citizens or other harm to their health, as well as the leadership of such an association.”
The Omsk judges interpreted Article 239.1 to the effect that “other harm to their health” includes “brainwashing.” They relied on reports by FSB agents who attended incognito Moskvitin’s Sunday services and concluded that “during the divine services, Moskvitin used mind control techniques, including hypnosis, which influenced the psyche of adherents, among whom were children, and ‘zombified’ the parishioners.”
Moskvitin was also accused of receiving donations illegally, but the trial confirmed his lifestyle was modest. Gifts were considered, however, further evidence that church members had been brainwashed and “zombified.”
There is thus a clear statement by a Russian court that “brainwashing” is used by religious minorities, including Evangelical churches, and is a crime in Russia.
Moskvitin has appealed, but clearly the current political climate does not favor religious minorities in Russia.