President Boris Yeltsin's new national security adviser vowed Thursday to ban certain religious groups - even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - and protect Russia from Western "cultural expansion."
Speaking during an election campaign in which nationalism has been an issue, Alexander Lebed said he would apply all his "strength, will and power to make Russia a great, rich and proud state."He singled out the missionary activities of foreign religious groups like the Japanese cult Aum Shinri Kyo as a "clear threat to Russia's security." Lebed also railed against the LDS Church.
"All these Mormons are mold and filth which have come to destroy the state. The state should outlaw them. They should not exist on our soil," he said, according to Russian news agencies. "We have three officially recognized religions: Orthodoxy, Islam and Buddhism."
The Mormons have been very active and visible in Russia and have a strong base here, but Lebed gave no indication why he singled them out.
LDS Church spokesman Don LeFevre said, "We are confident the general's comments are based on a misunderstanding of the church. One of our Articles of Faith is that members should respect the laws of the land where they reside.
"Since it was given official recognition in 1991, the church has contributed millions of dollars worth of humanitarian aid to the Russian people," LeFevre said.
Lebed also voiced concern over Western movies "flooding" Russian screens, saying strong resistance to Western cultural expan-sion should be a cornerstone of national security.
Lebed finished a strong third in the first round of Russia's presidential election June 16, and Yeltsin immediately gave him a powerful Kremlin job in hopes of attracting his voters. Yeltsin meets Communist leader Gennady Zyu-ga-nov in a runoff July 3.
As head of Yeltsin's Security Council, Lebed sees his responsibilities extending to the cultural and social sphere as well as to the police and military. However, his ability to carry out his ambitious agenda depends on how much clout Yeltsin allows him.
Lebed told his backers that his aim was to help Russia rediscover its greatness. He said communism could not help with this goal. Yeltsin, he said, was not an ideal choice but the only right one.
"There is a new idea which has a future," he said referring to the liberal philosophy of Yeltsin's reforms. "The only problem is that it is being badly carried out."