In a shocking move, Russia’s Supreme Court has has outlawed Jehovah’s Witnesses.
A ban on the Christian church came into effect after the court rejected an appeal by the religious group against a ruling in April which declared it to be extremist.
The justice ministry had argued that the group distributed pamphlets which incited hatred against other groups.
The group described the ruling as the end of religious freedom in Russia.
The denomination says it has 175,000 members in Russia - a country where it was persecuted both under the Nazi regime and during the Stalin era.
An estimated eight million people worldwide are part of the Christian-based movement, best known for going door-to-door looking for new converts
The ruling means that the group’s headquarters near St Petersburg and 395 local chapters will close.
It will be required to hand over all its properties, known as Kingdom Halls, to the Russian government.
The group’s Russia spokesman, Yaroslav Sivulsky, said that “religious freedom in Russia is over”.
The move will likely please the Russian Orthodox Church, which is widely considered to be a state organ, the hierarchy of which is associated with the state security service, the FSB, successor to the notorious KGB.
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