Four days after volunteers for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were detained in Novorossiysk, Russia, on charges of teaching English without a license, a Russian media outlet released an article on the men describing them as English teachers, KSL has learned. The article makes no reference to their arrest.
The article, published by the Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda on Tuesday night at 11:11 p.m. (Moscow Time), bears the translated title, “Americans came to Novorossiysk to help the local people pass the exam.”
It appears to be a human interest piece on the two men. It does not mention their detention or their affiliation to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, instead describing them as volunteers who moved to Novorossiysk with the specific intention of teaching free English courses.
A contradiction of American News
The detained volunteers were already in prison when the Russian article came out, according to what church spokesman Eric Hawkins told the Deseret News.
The men, Hawkins says, were arrested at their church meetinghouse on Friday night. If Hawkins’ timeline is accurate, they would already have been imprisoned for five days when the Komsomolskaya Pravda article was published.
According to one of the men’s fathers, who was able to speak to his son over the phone, the officials who detained the men accused them of teaching English without a license during the arrest. He has denied the charge that they taught English, saying that they were simply enjoying a regularly-scheduled game night at the meetinghouse when the arrest occurred.
The Komsomolskaya Pravda article released yesterday, however, presents the volunteers differently. It claims that the men came to “do good deeds” and “battle illiteracy” through free English classes.
Their article claims that the men set up an office in Novorossiysk to teach English classes. It quotes one of the men as saying that, as a routine, they visited local English tutors on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays to help them educate their students. The article also claims that they tutored students trying to pass English exams.
The men’s Friday night game night ritual is mentioned in the article; however, instead of presenting it as a pastime, the article describes it as a creative form of English instruction.
“Every Friday for two hours, we go with the residents of Novorossiysk to learn English in our office,” the article quotes one of the volunteers as saying. “We play ‘Crocodile’, where you need to guess a word in English and translate it into Russian, and other fun games.”
It is not clear when the Komsomolskaya Pravda began writing the article or whether they were aware of the men’s arrest when it was published.
The site has since released another article that describes the arrest, published last night. The new article claims that the men were arrested “at a meeting of a spoken English club” and that their visas had expired. It confirms, however, that the men were arrested on Friday.
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