New Russian leadership not likely to impact missionaries

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    By ANNIE GARDNER

    LDS Church officials don’t expect new leadership in Russia to change the status of missions in the country.

    Boris Yeltsin’s announcement to resign as Russia’s president may have been the biggest news of the first day of the new year, but his resignation has the potential to bring about Y2K glitches of its own sort.

    Yeltsin was a strong defender of civil rights, said Donald Jarvis, professor of Russian literature and mission president in Moscow and Yekaterinburg from 1996-1998.

    In 1998, Yeltsin signed Russia’s law on religion, giving already established churches recognized status in the country, the LDS Church being one of them.

    As Vladimir Putin begins his race for the presidency, some fear that his Nationalist views may jeopardize the ability for LDS missionaries to proselyte in the country, but the LDS Church isn’t concerned.

    “There have been no adverse changes and none are expected,” said Dale Bills, church spokesman.

    “It’s a possibility, but not much more than a possibility. The law benefits Russian religions. If it did happen, the LDS Church would have the protection of the Russian courts,” said Todd Foglesong, a visiting professor at the University of Utah specializing in Eastern European Politics.

    “Putin isn’t what you would call a radical nationalist. He is Yeltsin’s appointed successor and he will more than likely continue Yeltsin’s policies in civil rights,” Jarvis said.

    He said that as well as continuing in his predecessor’s footsteps, Putin is expected to be a stronger leader in Russia’s economy.

    Putin, Russia’s acting president and prime minister, launched the presidential election campaign on Wednesday. The election date is set for March 26.

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