The US government commission on religious freedom (USCIRF) has included Russia among the states on the watch list of countries requiring "close monitoring" in its 2012 annual report, according to media reports.
Russia, as in previous years, remains on the watch list, due to USCIRF concerns about the law on extremism, the treatment of non-traditional religions and hate crimes.
The report, due to be released on Tuesday, also recommends that the U.S. State Department include 16 countries on its list of the worst violators of religious rights, including two newcomers, former Soviet republic Tajikistan and close U.S. ally Turkey.
Violations of religious freedom in those two countries - and in Vietnam, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, China, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Eritrea - are “systematic and egregious," according to the report.
The State Department annually compiles its own list of the worst offenders, which are usually fewer than those recommended by the USCIRF. The countries included on the State Department list can face sanctions.
The 2011 annual report also saw a deterioration in religious freedom in Russia: “In the past year, the government increased its use of anti-extremism legislation against religious groups and individuals not known to use or advocate violence."
"National and local government officials regularly apply other laws to harass Muslims and religious groups they view as non-traditional. Russian officials continue to deem certain religious and other groups alien to Russian culture and society, thereby contributing to a climate of intolerance."
The independent, bipartisan USCIRF, created in 1998, prepares an annual report containing its recommendations for the U.S. administration.