THE EU is to monitor racism and persecution of religious minorities in Russia after Green Party Euro-MP Caroline Lucas demanded action following two cases of official discrimination against Hindus in Moscow.
Last October, Hindus in Moscow were left with no place to worship after the city’s mayor rescinded an offer of land for the construction of a new temple. And in December the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church described the Hindu god Krishna as “an evil demon, the personified power of hell, opposing God” – but received no official rebuke or condemnation.
Dr Lucas, South-East England’s MEP, told the EU’s Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner, there was an urgent need to exert pressure on the Russian government to improve its human rights standards in regard to religious minorities.
She said: “The Russian state’s respect for democracy and human rights do not meet the minimum standards required by international law – and the EU should be seizing every opportunity to exert pressure on Moscow to bring it up to standard.
“These two incidents highlight the way in which discrimination of religious minorities is becoming acceptable to the Russian establishment.
“As an important EU trading partner, the Russian government engages in regular dialogue with the European Commission, and I hope the Commission will demand improvements to religious freedom in Russia at the next such meeting.”
Ms Ferrero-Waldner told Dr Lucas the Commission took good note of her concerns and had asked its Moscow Delegation to monitor developments closely.
She said the Commission had also asked Russia to discuss improving the treatment of religious minorities with the EU Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia.
Dr Lucas added: “I am glad the Commission appears to be taking the issue of persecution of religious minorities in Russia seriously, and I hope Ms Waldner’s efforts to improve Russian human rights standards are successful.
“There comes a time though when we may need to apply the stick – threatening denial of access to EU markets – as well as the carrot of improved dialogue and closer partnership.”