The Salvation Army in Moscow began the year in what the head of the Christian group’s Russian operations, Kenneth Baillie, has called a “legal never-never land”.
“As of two days ago, we do not exist in Moscow,” Mr. Baillie said, referring to the refusal of Moscow authorities to re-register the city’s branch of the Salvation Army as a religious organisation.
Under a law on religion dating from 1997, local branches of the Salvation Army, together with many thousands of religious organisations throughout Russia that had registered under a more liberal 1991 law, had until Dec. 31 to re-register.
The Salvation Army did not have a registered central office in Russia and relied on local registration of its branches in various Russian cities. However, in February last year, the Moscow city justice department rejected the application of the army’s Moscow branch.
“Since we have the word ‘army’ in our name, they said we are a militarised organisation bent on the violent overthrow of the Russian government,” Mr. Baillie said.