World Bulletin/News Desk
The Russian Orthodox Church has established rules for priests seeking elective office despite a ban on almost all political activity by religious in a country that considers itself secular, a church representative was quoted as saying on Friday.
Analysts said Russia's biggest and most influential religious organisation, whose leader has portrayed a protest by punk band Pussy Riot in a cathedral as part of an attack on the church, is seeking to increase its influence on public life.
Rights activists said it could blur the lines between the government and the Russian Orthodox Church, which have a long tradition of close ties that critics say are tightening again despite the constitution saying Russia is a secular state.
At a meeting on Thursday, the church's Holy Synod reaffirmed rules set last year allowing priests to contest elections in cases when "schismatic" forces, or those of another faith, are seeking to use elective office to fight against the church.
Such a case could arise, for example, if "a political force declares that it is running in elections and that one of its aims is to fight Orthodoxy and the Russian church", Vladimir Legoida, a church spokesman, said in comments posted on the Internet.
Those rules are not new, Legoida said, but the church also set out "a clear mechanism" for priests or other church representatives who believe they should run for office or a legislative seat.
They must apply to the church leadership for permission, explaining their reasoning, he said.
Priests are still barred from joining political parties, even if they run in elections, Legoida said, and he said such had been tightened.
Despite the restrictions, the move indicates that "the church ... wants more involvement in politics," said Ksenia Sergazina of the Sova think-tank.
She said another example was legislation submitted to parliament last month that could set jail terms of up to three years for offending the religious sensitivities of the faithful.
Interfax news agency quoted Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a prominent human rights activist, as saying priests running in elections would be "another step in the direction of the clericalisation of our system".
"All these steps mean that the Russian Orthodox Church is becoming a state religion," she was quoted as saying.
A Western journalist was shot by unknown gunmen central Kabul on Tuesday morning and died of his wounds in hospital
France and Germany press for sanctions against Russia over Ukraine but warn of confrontation
United Nations report said North Korea was making use of more complicated financial countermeasures that made the isolated country's purchase of prohibited goods more difficult to track.
The Washington state detainees want to see deportations stopped and are demanding better food, an increase in the $1-per-day pay for prison work, and better treatment by guards
The fighting erupted late Saturday following reports of cattle stealing.
A passenger bus en route to South Sinai rammed into a truck parked on the side of the road. The collision killed 24 people and injured 21, including 10 in a serious condition, the source said.
7 soldiers and 2 policemen die during attack by New People's Army on police station in Davao del Sur province.
Yemen has remained in a state of chaos since the ouster of incumbent president Ali Abdullah Saleh in early 2012.
"I believe the pan-African parliament will help with the integration of Africa through institutions which is one of its intentions," Kenya's high commissioner to South Africa Patrick Wamoto said.
Last week, the African Union High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) announced the suspension of talks between Khartoum and the SPLM-N.
Dozens of ships and aircraft from 10 countries scoured the seas around Malaysia and south of Vietnam as questions mounted
Interior Ministry spokesman Hani Abdel-Latif, for his part, termed the alleged assassination attempt as an "electoral propaganda".
The UNICEF report said 2 million children needed some form of psychological support or treatment while a total of 5.5 million children were affected by the conflict
Putin says Russia is not controlling events in Crimea, but denials of Russian involvement are rejected by the United States
The Gaza government was scheduled to start paying overdue salaries for public servants on Wednesday.
The Libyan officials also said the government will assemble forces to "liberate" all occupied ports, raising the stakes over a blockage that has cut off vital oil revenue