Lawyer says Russia to deport American Mormon volunteers on court order

/ CBS News

A Russian lawyer representing American Mormon church volunteer Kole Brodowski told CBS News on Thursday that the California native and another man he was arrested last week would likely remain detained pending deportation late next week.

Attorney Sergey Gliznutsa said the men would be deported in accordance with a ruling issued on Thursday by a court in Krasnodar, a region about 1,000 miles south of Moscow.

Gliznutsa said that because most government offices were closed in Russia on Friday for national holidays, the court's decision would only be sent to the detention center where the men are being held, in the city of Gulkevichi, on Monday at the earliest. He said it would then likely take a couple days for the prison authorities to prepare the documents for the men's transfer out of the country. He said he expected them to leave Russia on Wednesday or Thursday, but could not confirm the date.

Kole Brodowski, an American member of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Garden Grove, California, is seen in an undated Facebook photo. Facebook

Brodowski was detained by Russian security services along with a second, as yet unidentified volunteer in the city of Novorossiysk on Friday last week as they attended a church meeting, according to Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for the church, formally named The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

Russia's government initially denied any knowledge of the men's detention as the reports surfaced in U.S. media this week.

"I don't have this information," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday when asked about the arrests. He told journalists to contact the "relevant authorities" for more information.

Russia banned religious missionaries from operating on its soil under a counterterrorism law in 2016, but the LDS church said it had complied with the new restrictions by officially registering local workers as "volunteers," rather than missionaries.

Kyle Brodowski, of California, confirmed to CBS News' Salt Lake City, Utah affiliate KUTV this week that his son Kole was one of the two LDS volunteers detained by Russian security, and asked for prayers for his safe release.

Gliznutsa told CBS News the men were detained by Russia's Federal Migration service as they met with three or four Russian visitors in a room officially rented by the church for meetings.

He said the reason for their detention remained unclear, but that he intended to appeal the move to higher authorities — without the participation of Browdowski or his fellow volunteer — in order to set a more clear precedent for the future.

The lawyer said Brodowski and his companion were being held in a dormitory-type room for several people and that the defendants told him they were being, "treated well, the food is good," and they have been allowed to call relatives. He said they looked calm, but upset that they were being made to leave their volunteer mission in Russia early. Brodowski was supposed to stay in Russia until September 2019, Gliznutsa said. He did not know the travel plans of the other Mormon volunteer.

Examining the U.S.-Russia relationship under Trump

Russia is holding at least two other U.S. nationals, one over alleged espionage and another on fraud charges.

Last month a Moscow court extended the detention of accused spy and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan by three months, one of his attorneys told CBS News. Vladimir Zherebenkov said the court ordered Whelan held until May 28, when he's to appear in court again. Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) sought the extension.

Whelan, who has U.S., British, Canadian and Irish citizenship, denies the charges against him.

Separately prominent U.S. investment manager Michael Calvey, who had worked in Russia for decades, was arrested in mid-February and is now facing fraud charges over the alleged embezzlement of $37 million. A court in Moscow rejected his appeal near the end of February and said he could be held in prison until April 13 pending the completion of the fraud investigation.

First published on March 7, 2019 / 11:19 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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