Russia's Ban on Evangelism - First Known Victims Fined

It will be recalled that on July 20, Russia’s law came into force banning virtually all types of evangelism outside of a church or religious site – including private homes and online. Only named members of organizations were allowed to share their faith, and even informal witnessing between individuals is forbidden. Those who breach this law will be fined.

Two individuals who are among the first known victims to have been fined to have disobeyed the law are a US citizen and the other a Ghanaian.
Donald Ossewaarde, a Baptist minister, was working in the city of Oryol, about 360 kilometers south-southwest of Moscow when he was visited by police. He was accused of posting notices in public places, to invite people to his home to study the scriptures and also holding meetings at his home for prayer and bible reading. He was fined £550 after being advised by a state lawyer to plead guilty and not appeal.

According to Ossewaarde, the court refused to allow time for his lawyers to come from Moscow for the initial hearing, and then provided a lawyer for him. In a "confidential conversation" after the hearing, this court appointed lawyer advised him to accept the verdict and pay the fine without appeal. He then said that it would be better for the American to leave the city, because anything might happen to him and his family. Ossewaarde's family has returned to the US in fear of their safety but he has remained in Russia to appeal his case.

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