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.
At least 54 crew on a Russian fishing trawler died and 15 were missing after it sank in freezing waters off the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Western Pacific Ocean
Greece's emotive campaign for war damages has been waged for decades by governments and private citizens alike. But it has gained momentum in recent years as Greeks suffered under the German-backed austerity imposed by the European Union and the International Monetary fund in exchange for financial bailouts.
Buildings have been evacuated as a huge fire starts in central London Street
Israel started withholding around $130 million a month in tax and customs revenues in December after the Palestinians announced that they were joining the International Criminal Court, a move finalised on Wednesday.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday issued an executive order creating new sanctions authority to punish individuals and entities engaged in cyber attacks.
At least nine people have reportedly been killed in Nigeria's northwestern Kano State
At least nine people were killed on Tuesday when hurricane-force winds lashed northern Europe in one of the most severe storms in years, forcing flights to be cancelled and disrupting road, train and marine traffic.
Russia and Ukraine agreed last year on a "winter package" for supplies with a price discount of $100 per thousand cubic metres and advance payments, but that accord expired on Tuesday and has yet to be replaced.
Sarkozy arrived Wednesday at financial section of high court of Paris to be interrogated over charges of breach of trust, complicity and concealment.
Police quiz Crimean Tatar Mejlis deputy head Umerov for seven hours and search his house.
Ethiopia is making preparations to evacuate its nationals from Yemen
U.S. State Department official who asked not to be named said Washington was ready to work with whoever was democratically elected in Nigeria and offered a positive.
Eritrean Foreign Ministry has refused claims that alleged Iranian support to Houthis group was being channeled through the Horn of Africa nation.
With officials touting victory in a month-long battle, state television said Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi was visiting the city, which the Islamist militants captured last June as they seized most of Iraq's Sunni territories.
First independent Crimean Tatar network ATR stops broadcasting after failing to get permission from Russian authorities.
President Obama said he would ask the U.S. Congress for $1.3 billion per year in military aid for Egypt and said he would lift holds on aircraft, missiles and tanks for Cairo in place since October 2013, the White House said in a statement.