Russia (MNN) — Vladimir Putin, who is barred from seeking another term as Russian president, suggested Monday that he might become prime minister next year. That seems to confirm what many analysts had assumed: that he plans to hold on to the power he has assumed over eight years.
During his presidency Putin has tightened controls on media, nationalized private energy companies, and ended popular election of governors in order to centralize authority. Religious freedom has also been curtailed under new religion laws requiring registration and placing restrictions on non-governmental organizations.
Speaking from Moscow, Russian Ministries' Vice President Sergey Rakhuba says Putin's reforms, while being less democratic and less free, appear to have support of the people. Rakhuba says these reforms have taken their toll on western workers. "We see how many western groups who are not getting visas or not getting visas renewed, and many foreign missionaries have had to move back to the states or other countries. And we also know that it was not publicized, but it was an order."
Rakhuba says he's heard these stories personally. "Just over the last four days I've met three missionaries who told me that some of their partners in mission did not get their visas and did not come back to Russia. So they consider moving back to their home country or region."
Russia has long stigmatized evangelicals, and Rakhuba doesn't expect things to get any better. "They were always recognized as the foreign entity and supported by the foreign evangelical community in Russia."
According to Rakhuba, that means their Schools Without Walls program is essential for equipping the church. "This is the method to train next generation or potential evangelical leaders. They will become not just church leaders but politicians who eventually some day will embrace freedom and continue preaching the Gospel."