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.
The search in the Baltic Sea less than 31 miles (50 km) from Stockholm brought back vivid memories of the final years of the Cold War as Swedish media report Russian link, Moscow denies it
Hundreds of Mombasa residents attended the emotional burial ceremony at the Mazrui family's cemetery in Mombasa's Old Town.
Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Araghchi says P5+1 group and Iran will gather in Austria on October 22
"The Israelis do not mind to have the Gazans working inside Israel or in the settlements around Gaza," Nazmi Mehanna, director of the Palestinian Authority's border authority, claims
Tehran summons Pakistani ambassador to discuss latest mutual border attack against Iranian security units
About half of Catalans want more independence from Spain and a vast majority favour holding a vote on their future, polls show.
Bosniak politician Alija Izetbegovic, who brought independence to his home country, is remembered in Bosnia Herzegovina on eleventh anniversary of his death
Pro-Russian rebels and government forces have continued to clash on the city's outskirts despite a Sept. 5 ceasefire accord
Israeli police imposed restrictions on the entry of Muslim worshippers into the compound since the early hours of the day RAMALLAH (AA) –
Separatists suspected of carrying out killings in southwestern Baluchistan province
Draft law being discussed in Congress with MILF would make future regional gov’t responsible for public order in Muslim south
North African neighbours Morocco and Algeria share a 1,500 km (970 miles) land border that runs from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sahara desert
The BND concluded the rebels were to blame after a detailed analysis based on satellite and other photos, Der Spiegel said.
Oby Ezekwesil, whose "Bring back our girls" campaign has highlighted daily protests in Abuja, said she was "cautiously optimistic" but "extremely anxious"
The union said the strike would affect all short- and mid-distance Lufthansa flights from Germany.
It is reported that Cameron wanted to cap the number of low-skilled migrants from within the EU who could register to work in the country