World Bulletin / News Desk
Russian lawmakers are calling for jail sentences for people guilty of offending religious feelings, in a move that could tighten the bonds between President Vladimir Putin and the resurgent Orthodox Church.
The State Duma, the lower house of parliament, adopted a declaration on Tuesday saying the killing of spiritual leaders, vandalism against church property and "blasphemous acts of hooliganism" posed a threat to Russia and must be countered.
The vote came weeks after members of punk band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years' jail for performing a protest song in a cathedral, and coincides with widespread anger in the Muslim world against an online video mocking the Prophet Mohammad.
"All these actions are aimed at destabilising the centuries-old spiritual and moral foundations of Russia, discrediting traditional values and, in essence, serve to ignite civil strife and undermine the country's sovereignty," the Duma resolution said.
The declaration has no binding force but sets the tone for legislation that Yaroslav Nilov, head of the Duma committee on civic and religious groups, said would be presented to parliament as early as this week.
Nilov said a proposed amendment would introduce criminal responsibility for offences against religious beliefs and feelings and impose a jail term of up to three years.
Alternative punishments would be fines of up to 300,000 roubles ($9,700) or community service, the daily Vedomosti reported, citing unidentified pro-Kremlin lawmakers.
Critics said such laws would blur the line between the state and the Russian Orthodox Church and called the move part of a crackdown on dissent under Putin, who began a six-year presidential term in May.
"A very alarming process is occurring now: our state is starting to incorporate the Russian Orthodox Church into itself as a part of the state," said Ilya Ponomaryov, an opposition lawmaker who has taken part in street protests Putin's foes say have prompted a Kremlin crackdown.
Days after a suicide bomber killed 57 people at a Kabul voter registration centre, highlighting the security challenges around October's parliamentary polls, Stoltenberg said NATO forces could play a "limited" security role.
The US social media giant's Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer appeared before a British parliamentary committee probing the role of fake news in recent votes, and how data gathered from the network was used to target potential voters.
If confirmed as US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo will reportedly head to Israel for first official trip overseas
Suspects were indicted for sponsoring the terror groups PKK, Fetullah Terrorist Organization, and leftist DHKP/C
Tim Cook had private meeting with U.S. president to discuss White House trade policies
Foreign ministers to discuss cooperation within framework of Astana mechanism for Syria on April 28
Company bows to protests after deleting video but applies age restriction
'More violence will not bring peace and security to Afghanistan', says State Department
This is the second Palestinian journalist to have died by Israeli gunfire
Prime Minister Sharma Oli accepts that rebuilding after 2015 earthquake has remained sluggish
At least 41 Gazans were killed in anti-occupation rallies since last month
Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli prisons
'Texas honors all the men and women who protect and serve our communities, and justice will be served,' Texas governor says
Police said the suspect, 25-year-old Alek Minassian, was not known to them before Monday's carnage in Canada's most populous city, which also left 15 people injured.
At least 41 Palestinians were martyred by Israeli gunfire on Gaza border since March 30
Talks are expected to tackle the possibility of U.S. troop withdrawal from war-torn Syria