The Russian government is starting to round up and arrest Christian leaders following the passing of a new anti-terrorism law that bans evangelism outside of the church.
Sergei Zhuravlyov, with the Ukrainian Reformed Orthodox Church of Christ the Savior, was arrested in early August while preaching near the St. Petersburg Messianic Jewish community, reports The Moscow Times.
Zhuravlyov was charged with violating a provision of the law that bans illegal missionary activity.
Law enforcement official later told a local news agency that Zhuravlyov is being accused of "fomenting negative attitudes toward the Russian Orthodox Church," and of having ties to the Ukrainian nationalist political party called Right Sector, which is banned in Russia.
The new law also prohibits people from sharing their faith. They cannot preach or pray outside of the church and it bans foreign missionaries from speaking at churches without permission from Russian authorities.
"Everybody is stunned. It came so quickly, so unexpectedly," said Sergey Rakhuba, president of Mission Eurasia, an organization that equips young church leaders in countries in the post-Soviet world and Eurasia.
Rakhuba says the new law brings back memories of repressive laws passed by former Soviet dictators Nikita Khrushchev and Joseph Stalin.
"They're trying to push the evangelical church back behind the walls again as the Soviets did," he said.