Russia’s justice ministry said Thursday that it has added Jehovah’s Witnesses to its black list, formalising a ban for the Christian movement over alleged “extremist activities.”
In a statement, the ministry said that the decision “had entered legal force” to ban the activities of the central organisation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and also all 395 local offices.
The evangelical movement also appeared in the ministry’s online register of banned organisations.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses have fought a long legal battle against the ban, culminating in a Russian Supreme Court ruling in July to reject an appeal.
In April, the Supreme Court issued a ruling banning the Christian group and seizing its property.
That decision came after the justice ministry said it had found signs of “extremist activity” within the religious movement and requested that it be banned.
Members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses — a Christian evangelical movement that was born in the United States in the 19th century — consider modern churches to have deviated from the Bible’s true teachings. They reject modern evolutionary theory and refuse blood transfusions.
Washington last month called the ruling against the group “the latest in a disturbing trend of persecution of religious minorities in Russia.”
There are more than eight million Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, with some countries classifying the group as a sect.
Its members are known for preaching on doorsteps, where they offer religious literature and attempt to convert people.
In 2004 Russia dissolved the Moscow branch of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2010 that the move had violated the right to freedom of religion and association.