Russia said on Thursday two U.S. citizens volunteering for the Mormon church had been deported for violations of immigration laws and that two others, described by a church official as “in good spirits,” were in custody, ONA reports quoting Reuters.
Russia’s Interfax news agency named the two deportees as Kole Brodowski and David Udo Hague and said they had been ordered to leave Russia by a court in the southern port of Novorossiysk on Thursday.
It described them as volunteers with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons.
“I can confirm reports of the detention of U.S. citizens for breach of migration laws,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. “Four were detained, two were deported by the decision of the court.”
A church spokesman confirmed that two of its volunteers were still in custody.
“They remain in custody while their deportation is being processed,” spokesman Eric Hawkins said in an email. “The young men are in good spirits, are being treated well, and are in regular contact with their mission president and their families.”
There have been several high profile arrests of U.S. citizens in Russia in recent months.
Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine accused of spying, saw his detention extended last month for a further three months as authorities continue to investigate the case.
A prominent U.S. investor, Michael Calvey, was detained last month on allegations of stealing 2.5 billion roubles ($37.79 million). He denies the allegation.
More than 100 criminal cases have also been opened in Russia against Jehovah’s Witnesses, another Christian denomination, with a Danish adherent of the faith recently jailed for six years.