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.
Attack comes day after 36 people are killed by twin car bombings in Iraq's southern city of Al-Samawah
We agreed the G7 should send a strong signal in this sense,' Japanese PM says after talks with his Italian counterpart
'France forcefully condemns the (Damascus) regime's attacks that have caused many casualties (and) calls on the supporters of the regime... to use their influence on Damascus to silence the weapons,' foreign ministry says
Khartoum has stepped up its claim to the territories after Egypt transferred two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia
European Commission says Ankara has made 'a lot of efforts' for the EU visa liberalisation
Three Boko Haram militants were killed and nine captured in operations in NE Borno State
Russia's Lavrov to meet UN Syria envoy in Moscow Tuesday
Investors to attend two-day conference in Sarajevo from Wednesday
The evacuation has passed off largely without incident, authorities say
Sudan’s Constitutional Court on Sunday has ordered to allow Al-Tayyar newspaper to resume publishing following more than four-month suspension by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).
Thousands of supporters of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have held a sit-in inside Baghdad’s Green Zone after storming parliament on Saturday
'Now, with the new phenomenon of [ISIL], this is going to challenge us for years to come,' John Brennan says
Palestinian flag has been banned from Eurovision Song Contest Stockholm 2016
'Two car bombs went off in town. The first one was at around midday near a bus station in the city centre,' according to police
Supporters of firebrand Shia cleric demand government of ‘technocrats’ untainted by corruption, sectarianism
Order comes day after supporters of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr stormed Baghdad’s Green Zone and temporarily occupied parliament building