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Russian foresees no barriers on LDS Church

Don't expect restrictions on current LDS Church operations in Russia.

That was the sentiment expressed by Yury V. Popov, Russia's consul general in San Francisco, during his Utah visit Friday."I don't see a reason why there would be some barriers" placed in front of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Popov said.

Church and U.S. government leaders have kept a close eye on a new Russian law restricting some foreign-based churches. While the right for LDS Russians to gather and worship has been explicitly assured, Russian officials have sometimes been vague as to whether active LDS missionary work would also be protected.

If the LDS Church can find new members in Russia, that's fine, Popov said.

That seems consistent with what Russian leaders have told local politicians. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, recently said a Russian delegation assured him the LDS Church and others would be allowed to operate as they have in recent years.

Bennett and Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., helped pass a Senate resolution last year threatening aid cuts to Russia if restrictive measures were enacted.

While the Russian religion law passed, the LDS Church and others have reportedly been allowed to continue normal operation.

The church, which officially registered with the Russian government in 1991, operates seven missions and has more than 5,000 members in Russia.

The Utah House and Senate rewarded Popov's visit by supporting a bill proclaiming a first-ever "Russia Day" in Utah.

Popov - whose consul jurisdiction includes most of the United States and Hawaii - also met with Gov. Mike Leavitt, telling him he was impressed by Utah's "nice people."

The 47-year-old diplomat even hinted at establishing an office in Utah.