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.
Tax inspectors in Greece are now turning their attention to holiday hotspots with tourism bosses complaining that increase taxes will hit tourism revenue
Iraq ratified the U.N. Convention against Torture in 2011, but rights groups such as Amnesty International say torture is still widespread,
Amensty International cites ‘strong evidence’ that Israel committed war crimes during last year’s ‘relentless, massive’ bombardment of Rafah
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari is keen to keen to get a regional taskforce up and running to combat Boko Haram
Croatian lawmakers have voted to withdraw from a long running border row with Slovenia
Russian Energy minister has said that in order for the pipeline to continue, an intergovernmental agreement must be signed.
After receiving the fuel needed to operate, Gaza power plant set to resume operations following week-long stoppage
In case if no parliamentary majority will be ensured, Greece will go to elections
Facebook has faced numerous challenges in Europe, but Germany is determined to protect privacy of its citizens
Presence of anti-Muslim bigotry in US media is obvious
Human cost of east Ukraine conflict reaches 7,000 people, says OHCHR
Kites are source of entertainment for children in besieged enclave, but also source of income for unemployed
A Sudanese migrant had died after trying to enter the Channel Tunnel.-
A routine traffic stop has turned deadly in the US heartland with a dashcam footage reportedly so gruesome that the city of Cincinnati is preparing for riots as well as the officer’s indictment.
Offshore oil discovery by Exxon Mobil Corp which could be a major boost to Guyana has reignited a border dispute with Venezuela.
Depardieu is identified as national security threat