Russia on Friday blacklisted over 200 Jehovah’s Witnesses, adding them to the country’s register of extremists and terrorists, according to the organization.
The blacklisting effectively cuts them off from Russia’s financial system, as people on the register have their bank accounts and other assets frozen, The Associated Press reports.
In 2017, Russia officially banned the religious group and declared it an extremist organization. This isn’t a lone case, the Kremlin has made an effort in recent years to crack down on a number of activists and religious minorities.
Since then, 24 members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been arrested and convicted, with nine being sentenced to prison. More than 300 additional members are reportedly under investigation.
The organization’s world headquarters — located in upstate New York — told the AP that members that were blacklisted have yet to be convicted, but are under investigation.
“Clearly, Russia has effectively reinstated its darkest period of history by relentlessly persecuting Jehovah’s Witnesses, as did its intolerant Soviet predecessors,” Jarrod Lopes, a spokesman for the organization, told the news outlet.
In 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the crackdown on the group “complete nonsense.”
“Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians, too, so I don’t quite understand why persecute them,” Putin told the Presidential Council for Human Rights, at the time.