World Bulletin / News Desk
Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a long-standing ally of President Vladimir Putin, on Sunday urged the Kremlin to be moderate in new legislation seeking stricter punishment for religious offences.
The pro-Kremlin United Russia party proposed a law introducing jail terms for offending religious feelings after a protest against Putin's increasingly close ties with the Church by punk band Pussy Riot in Moscow's main cathedral in February. Two members of the band are in prison for the protest, which Kirill has called part of a coordinated attack intended to thwart the post-Soviet revival of Russia's dominant church.
In remarks published on the eve of Russian Orthodox Christmas, Kirill, who has likened Putin's long rule to a "miracle of God", told the Interfax news agency that Russia needed stiffer punishments for offences against religion. "A fine of several hundred roubles (about $10) for blasphemous inscriptions on a church, a mosque or a synagogue signals that society does not fully realise the importance of protecting ... religious feelings of believers," he said.