The Independent, a politically independent national morning paper published in London, shared that a Russian yoga instructor has been arrested due to “illegal missionary activity” under controversial new laws that were designed to combat terrorism.
The yoga instructor, named Dmitry Ugay, is said to have failed to act upon the measures of the anti-terror law that is also known as ‘Big Brother’. Ugay was reported to have given a talk about the philosophy of yoga at a festival in St. Petersburg. Also a computer programmer, Ugay was later arrested and charged with conducting illegal missionary activity, which is an offense under the Yarovaya laws that were brought in last year.
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The law was named after MP Irinia Yarovaya, and it was signed off by President Vladimir Putin. This law gives restrictions on missionary activities, religious groups, and followers of non-traditional religions, based on the government’s definition. Ugay’s arrest comes after he was accused by a fellow festival-goer named Nail Nasibulin of recruiting young people to join his “pseudo-Hindu organization.”
The yoga instructor claimed that he was put into a police car and ordered to sign a blank piece of paper, which he refused to do. Several months after his arrest and subsequent arrest, he now faces a fine at a court hearing next week. Ugay, who admits that he follows Hinduism, denied the allegations of him performing a missionary activity.
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“I did not name a single religious organization in my speech, nor did I use a single religious book, and did not name a single religious figure apart from Christ and Buddha,” Ugay claimed.
The arrest has been controversial in Russia after critics called the statement of the Yarovaya law open to interpretation. Alexander Verkhovsky, head of the Moscow-based Sova Centre, said that “Yoga is in no way a religious group,” and it is unclear whether he persuaded people to follow him.