BREAKING 3:30 Eastern Time:
NAUVOO NEWS - Sergey Gliznutsa, a Russian lawyer representing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ volunteer Kole Brodowski told news organizations on Thursday that the volunteers will be released and deported next week in accordance with a ruling issued on Thursday by a court in Krasnodar.
Gliznutsa said “because most government offices are closed in Russia on Friday for national holidays, the court's decision would only be sent to the detention center where the men are being held, in the city of Gulkevichi on Monday at the earliest.” He said “it will likely take a couple days for the prison authorities to prepare the documents for the men's transfer out of the country.” Gliznutsa said he expected them to leave Russia on Wednesday or Thursday, but was unable to confirm the date.
The two young men are being held after being arrested in a Latter-day Saint church meeting house in Novorossiysk, a city on the Black Sea. They were accused of teaching an English class without a permit.
Initial reports of their arrest and detainment set off a firestorm of international concern for the two young men in light of growing tensions between the United States and Russia. In a Saturday March, 2nd court hearing, in which the volunteers were represented by attorneys provided by the church, the two sides were not able to resolve the issue and so the youths remained behind bars.
EARLIER NEWS POST
NAUVOO NEWS: Today, Russian government officials denied any knowledge of detaining two Americans who were serving as volunteers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, the Church has confirmed the two men were arrested Friday during a church meeting in Novorossiysk, approximately 1,000 miles south of Moscow.
In 2016 Russia officially banned religious missionaries under a counterterrorism law. This new law has led to a troubling crackdown on Jehovah Witnesses and other groups that tract and preach their religious views. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said it is in compliance with the new law. The church officially registers local workers as "volunteers," rather than missionaries.
The father of one of the boys, Kyle Brodowski stated that his son Kole was “one of the two Latter-day Saint volunteers detained by Russian security.” Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement released on Tuesday, that the two volunteers had been arrested on Friday.
"Please pray for our Son and his companion," Kyle Brodowski, of Garden Grove, California, said in a Facebook post.
The second detained church member has not yet been identified. The church further stated “both volunteers are believed to be in good condition” and that the church would "continue to work with local authorities and encourage the swift release of these volunteers."
But on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow, "I don't have this information," when asked about the purported arrests. He told journalists to contact the "relevant authorities" for more information. Russia has acknowledged that it is holding two U.S. nationals, one over alleged espionage and another on fraud charges. But it was unclear yet if he was referring to the church volunteers.
In April 2017, the Russian Supreme Court classified the Jehovah’s Witnesses as an “extremist organization.” This ruling put the country’s 170,000 officially pacifist Christian members on a par with the Islamic State militant group and neo-Nazi movements. The court not only banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses from operating anywhere in the country, but accepted a request from the justice ministry that they be considered an extremist group. This prompted the closure of the Jehovah Witness Russian headquarters.
Since then, the government has closed all of the 395 Jehovah’s Witness prayer halls, confiscated the group’s property and has banned its translation of the Bible, which uses the word “Jehovah” in place of “God” or “Lord.” Analysts at the United Nations warned that the Supreme Court ruling signaled a “dark future” for religious freedom in Russia.