Disputes in Bryansk

Well-Known Cycling Champion Re-Injured


Incidents during an evangelistic weekend in Klintsy


M o s c o w / K l i n t s y – Last February, the Baptist cycling champion and church deacon Vladimir Skovpen (Klintsy near Bryansk) suffered a multiple fracture of the collarbone: While repairing a vehicle, the motor has fallen on his chest. Local police have now broken his collarbone for a second time.


During a four-day evangelistic weekend, young persons had cycled to the central city square of Klintsy in south-western Russia on an Orthodox holiday: Saturday, 12 July. They wore red t-shirts emblazoned with the title of the weekend’s events: “Time to Believe”. After arrival, they passed out leaflets, sang and invited others to attend meetings in their church building. The 35 cyclists also grouped in front of a monument for a picture-taking session.


Demonstrators in white shirts from the “Orthodox Block” student organization had also gathered on the square. They carried a banner with the words: “A sect – The enemy of public health!” Though not clear to all passers-by, they were demonstrating against the Jehovah’s Witnesses.


Police arrived on the scene and hustled Baptist pastor Evgeny Voronin off to the police station for interrogation. After lengthy discussions, the protocol stated that the pastor was guilty of holding a public procession without official permission.


Vladimir Skovpen, who was still receiving ambulant medical treatment, arrived in a bus at the city square. While describing his medical condition, police, without any legal ado, roughly pinned back Skovpen’s arms and hurried him off. The result was excruciating pain. During his two-hour stint at the police station, the injured athlete was refused all medical attention. After his release, he was brought immediately to the local hospital’s X-ray ward where doctors diagnosed a renewed fracture of the collarbone.


Three additional Protestants – including US-citizen Michael Walker – were also brought to the police station. In the general confusion, even a reporter for the local newspaper invited to the legally-registered Orthodox protest ended up in police custody.


Regarding the incident, Pastor Yuri Sipko, President of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (RUECB), responded: “That which has taken place in Klintsy leaves one simply aghast. One has no means left to comment when state officials use force to turn someone into an invalid and then leave him without medical care.”


The end result of the events is not yet clear. A statement made by the Klintsy congregation expresses a total lack of understanding for the use of force: “Our feelings are hopefully wrong – but we sense that the state is ignoring us. Yet we reckon with insight and are waiting on a dialogue.” A meeting with the provincial governor is in the offing.


At youth meetings during the week, Vladimir Skovpen, a father of 10 and national Soviet cycling champion in 1980, had instructed cyclists on how to drive correctly in traffic. Only he had remained in the saddle for the entire distance of the evangelistic cycle tour from Germany to Vladivostok during the summer of 2007.


William Yoder, Ph.D.

Department for External Church Relations, RUECB

Moscow, 23 July 2008


A release of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. May be published freely. Release #08-32, 480 words.