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Russia Religion News Current News Items

Religious opposition joined huge Moscow protest on Russia Day

Big head; separate column; activist beaten; and calls from stage to release group members, 12 June 2012

More than 40,000 participants gathered on 12 June, the day of the chief state holiday of the Russian federation, in the center of Moscow for the March of Millions, which was organized by a group of oppositionist activists of various political persuasions, a correspondent reports. At the march a separate column was formed of supporters of the members of the "Pussy Riot" punk group who are in detention for staging in KhKhS a prayer service "Mother of God. Drive Putin away;" yet another group of Christians marched with a large banner "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness," and the Muslim Civil Charter, Buddhists, and pagans formed their own groups.

According to the estimate of the Portal's correspondent, the column of supporters of the punk group consisted of about 40 participants. They carried a large head concealed under a pink stocking mask with eye slits and posters with the demand to release the members of "Pussy Riot" and to drive away Putin and "the false patriarch of false orthodoxy." Other march participants also carried slogans of similar content (especially widespread was "Russia without Putin, Church without Gundiaev!") without being associated with one of the "religious" columns and groups.

At the very beginning of the rally on Sakharov Prospect, when a group of nationalists stormed the stage, several provocateurs broke away and attacked the improvised head in the mask and posters of members of the "OkkupaiSud" column. Activist Roman Bagdasarov was beaten by a provocateur in plain clothes who immediately retreated; participants in the column did not put up physical resistance to the provocateurs.

The first mention of the necessity to release the prisoners of conscience sounded forth at the beginning of the rally from the lips of Sergei Udaltsov, after which representatives of the police handed him a summons for an immediate appearance at the Investigative Committee of Russia for interrogation.

An activist of the "OkkupaiAbai" movement, Alixa Obraztsova, called directly for the release of the "Pussy Riot" members, after which the assembled crowd began chanting "Freedom for Pussy Riot!" and "Freedom for political prisoners!"  Alisa Obraztsova spoke also about the danger for Russian society of the activity of V.M. Gundiaev, known also as Patriarch Kirill, and for the first time from the stage of such a massive protest event was proclaimed the slogan:  "Russia without Putin; Church without Gundiaev!" This slogan evoked applause from the crowd and shouts of "Shame on Gundiaev!" were heard.

The action culminated in a vote for the "Manifesto of Free Russia," which was read by the leader of the Movement for Protection of Khimki Forest, Evgenia Churikova. The manifesto calls for the resignation of the president, development of a new law on elections for parliament and the adoption of this law by the existing parliament and a subsequent new election of the State Duma. The manifesto also calls for developing a new constitution restricting the powers of the president and his term of office, the reelection of the head of state on the basis of the new law, and the introduction of elections of heads of the component elements of the federation and the leadership of the police.

After the rally a concert was performed in which songs from the oppositionist "White Album" were performed. A group of "Pussy Riot" supporters proceeded down Chistoprudy Boulevard where, according to the Portal's correspondent's information they have remained to the present time. (tr. by PDS, posted 13 June 2012)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Jehovah's Witness misrepresented as foreign agent

ReligioPolis, 8 June 2012

On 7 June 2012 information was circulated from the press service of the directorate of the Federal Security Service for the republic of Bashkiria that FSB forces and military counterintelligence had put a stop to the activity of a worker in a service station who distributed literature of the Jehovah's Witnesses to his army servicemen customers. Meanwhile the decision of a justice of the peace imposing a fine of 1,000 rubles has not taken legal effect and is being appealed at present.

According to materials of the case, at the beginning of 2012, Shmavon Bagdasarian, an individual proprietor, in his own work space in a garage conducted a conversation about faith in God with one of his customers. The man showed an interest in the topic and asked questions and told the believer that he was trying to overcome tobacco addiction. Bagdasarian gave the man one of his religious books that he had for personal reference, thinking that it would help him deal with his habit.

This incident subsequently lay at the basis of an administrative prosecution on the article "mass distribution of extremist materials" (Code of Administrative Law Violations 20.29). Three books figure in the case:  "What does the Bible really teach?" (included in the list of extremist materials), although the believer denies that he participated in any way in distributing two of them.

Bagdasarian, who is a citizen of the Russian federation, is identified in informational reports as a "native of Georgia" (citing the FSB press service as the source of the information). Mention in this context of "military counterintelligence" led to the appearance in news media of headlines of the type "Georgian sectarians recruit soldiers."

"Nine of Bagdasarian's fellow believers came to the trial, although, despite current legislation, only two were allowed into the court," reported Bulat Irsaev, Bagdasarian'a attorney, "and later their arrival was unjustifiably interpreted as pressure on the court. However it was FSB personnel who put pressure on Bagdasarian, threatening 'to shut' his business and 'create problems' for his wife who is in the process of getting Russian citizenship, in the event that he did not decline to make a legal defense in court"

Irsaev thinks that this case is a clear example of the fact that completely innocent people suffer as a result of the illegal application of antiextremism legislation. He says:  "A simple man, father of two children, finds himself at the center of espionage actions merely because he professes the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses. Bagdasarian was acting in compliance with the constitution, which does not restrict in any way the right of disseminating one's own religious convictions, including among army servicemen.   (tr. by PDS, posted 11 June 2012)

Source: report of the press service of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Russian legislators call for anti-sacrilege law

Interfax-Religiia, 8 June 2012

The South Russian Parliamentary Association (YuRPA) adopted an appeal to the State Duma suggesting the introduction of criminal responsibility for offending the religious feelings of citizens and desecration of sacred things they venerate.

"This appeal is dictated by the concern in society associated with the acts of vandalism that have been committed and by abuse of sacred religious things. Such actions, having a prevocational nature, pose a serious danger and can become the cause of division within society, the clash of opinions, and conflicts among people," the deputy chairman of the Legislative Assembly of Krasnodar territory, Viktor Cherniavskii, said.

During the 14th conference of YuRPA, held on Thursday in Anapa, he recalled that Russian legislation prohibits the propaganda of religious superiority, the obstruction of religious organizations, and the like. "However, for offending religious feelings and desecration of objects and signs and emblems of worldview symbols revered by them, only administrative punishment is provided for, in the form of a fine of 500 to 1,000 rubles," he noted.

Legislators think that, in light of the serious public resonance of incidents of desecration of sacred religious things and the high social danger, it is necessary to adopt additional measures for protection of the religious feelings of representatives of all traditional religious confessions. The appeal proposes introducing criminal liability for offending religious feelings of citizens and desecration of sacred objects they revere.

The conference participants—delegations of members of parliaments of the south of Russia—voted unanimously for the draft of the appeal. (tr. by PDS, posted 8 June 2012)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Russians of Ukraine denounce Metropolitan Vladimir


A number of leaders of public organizations and Orthodox activists of Kiev, traditionally constituting "political Orthodoxy," signed a letter of complaint to Patriarch Kirill with accusations against the head of UPTsMP, Metropolitan Vladimir. Among the first signatures was that of an employee of two synodal departments of UPTsMP (for youth affairs and for Cossack affairs), the secretary of the Coordinating Council for Matters of the Development of Cossackdom in Ukraine under the Cabinet of Ministers, "Loyal Cossackdom" Hetman Aleksei Selivanov, "Religiia v Ukraine" reports.

The authors of the letter, which was published on 5 June on the official website of the "Russians in Ukraine" all-Ukrainian coordinating council of organizations of Russian compatriots, inform Patriarch Kirill that "because of the destructive position of your subordinate, the primate of UPTsMP, His Blessedness Metropolitan Vladimir," has placed in jeopardy the adoption of draft law No. 10170 prohibiting abortion. In the authors' opinion, deputies of the Supreme Soviet might not adopt that law after Metropolitan Vladimir expressed in private conversation with journalists his opinion that it is necessary to combat abortion "with word and heart," and not by legislative prohibitions.

"We were thrown into terrible confusion and even shock by the Easter statement of His Blessedness Metropolitan Vladimir that he opposed the legislative prohibition of abortions and he is only for preaching about their dangers. Similarly one could say that he is against the criminal prosecution of murderers of metropolitans and he is only for preaching to murderers about the sinfulness of this act," the Orthodox public leaders comment disapprovingly on the statement of their primate. They think that "the statement of His Blessedness Metropolitan Vladimir reminds one more of a statement of a politician of an ultraliberal orientation than the words of a Christian" and they insist that "the level of His Blessedness Metropolitan Vladimir's understanding does not reach up to even the level of a stalinist Central Executive Committee which managed to save the lives of a multitude of defenseless children."

The authors of the letter also declare that the Metropolitan Vladimir's statement contradicts the Social Concept of RPTs—"The church calls the state to recognize the right of medical workers to refuse to perform an abortion on the basis of considerations of conscience." To be sure, they do not quote here the allegedly contradictory statement of Metropolitan Vladimir.

"We do not know for certain whether his words were caused by his extremely painful infirmity of old age, which we all have observed, or, God forbid, by some other considerations. But in any case, a Christian cannot be reconciled with such statements which hinder the protection of the live of unborn infants," conclude their letter the signatories led by the director of the "People's Council" of Ukraine, Igor Druz.

It is noteworthy that previously leaders of "Loyal Cossackdom" and the "People's Council" of Ukraine were able to distribute 20,000 copies of "compromising material" on others of their church colleagues—Orthodox Scouts of Ukraine and their director Archdeacon Ioann Didenko, the deputy chairman of the synodal Department of Church Charity and Social Service of UPTsMP. (tr. by PDS, posted 8 June 2012)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Moscow patriarchate accused of illegal commerce

Komsomolskaia Pravda, 4 June 2012

The Russian Orthodox Church is upset by the lawsuit of the Society for Protection of Consumers' Rights. The Moscow patriarchate states that RPTs has nothing to do with business on the territory of the complex of the church of Christ the Savior. Earlier rights advocates addressed a court with the request to put a stop to illegal trade there. Attacks on the church from the start are baseless, journalist Maksim Shevchenko thinks.

"The scandal is fabricated, inasmuch as the church building itself does not belong to the Moscow patriarchate. It needs to be checked but I recall I heard from a rather highly placed figure in the church that the church building and the territory attached to it are not the property of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is city property.

"Therefore before accusing the Moscow patriarchate of illegal commercial activity it would be necessary honestly and correctly to determine to whom it really belongs. I do not understand why there is a problem there and why there is illegal commercial activity. If this were even the church. Why are they telling the church what it should be doing? In such a case those who accuse the church are themselves violating the principle of separation of church from state," Shevchenko declared to radio station "Komsomolskaia Pravda."

Russian original posted on site, 7 June 2012

Lawsuit filed over violations of consumers' rights in church of Christ the Savior
By Alexander Voronov, Pavel Korobov
Kommersant, 6 June 2012

The "Public Control" Society for the Protection of Consumers' Rights yesterday addressed the Khamovniki court of Moscow with a lawsuit accusing the Russian Orthodox Church (RPTs) of violating legislation. The society discovered on the territory of the church of Christ the Savior (KhKhS) a business center with a service station, dry cleaners, and jewelry stores in which there are no cash registers, or complaint books, or properly organized price tags. The Moscow patriarchate says that it has nothing to do with the business center in the church building.

The lawsuit in Khamovniki court of Moscow was filed by "Public Control" in defense of an unspecified circle of persons. The defendant is the organization "Annex of the Patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus Cathedral Church of Christ the Savior of the Moscow Patriarchate." The society explained that it had received complaints from citizens over the violation of trade legislation in KhKhS. In the course of checking up, the rights advocates discovered on the territory of the church building a business center with a service station, car wash, dry cleaners, restaurant, and jewelry and souvenir shops. "It is obvious that the car wash, where mainly migrants from Central Asia work, is not a religious ritual and should be regulated by secular legislation," the society explains. Representatives of "Public Control" explained that in the business center there are no cash registers, complaint books, or properly composed price tags, and employees of the trade points refuse to exchange or return purchased goods. In the lawsuit "Public Control" requests that the Moscow patriarchate "put a stop to illegal actions."

The director of the press service of the patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus, Archpriest Vladimir Vigilianskii, thinks that the lawsuit does not have the proper target and the rights advocates "were victims of information manipulation." "We have been saying for more than ten years now that nothing in the church of Christ the Savior belongs to the church; it all belongs to the city," he explained. "I hope that the court will refute this slander that has been spread by several news media about commercial activity by RPTs in this site." At the same time he said the liturgical facilities are administered by the Foundation of the Church of Christ the Savior, which still "uses commerce for maintaining the church building." The head of the Legal Department of the Moscow patriarchate, nun Kseniia Chernega, explained to Kommersant that the building of the church and associated land belong to the government of Moscow, and they are transferred to the foundation of KhKhS in trust.

The foundation of KhKhS was created in 1994 (its original name was Foundation for Financial Support of the Restoration of KhKhS); it administers the complex of buildings of the church, with an area of 34.1 thousand square meters. In 2011 the foundation received 239,900,000 rubles subsidy from the budget of Moscow (for 2012 the approved subsidy is 372,500,000 rubles "for recovery of expenses for maintaining and conducting the activity" of the church).

The first deputy of the executive director of the KhKhS foundation, Sergei Semenenko, confirmed for Kommersant that trade and service outlets of the patriarchal annex, the foundation, and tenants operate on the territory of the complex of the church. According to Mr. Semenenko, in the annex only objects of religious use are sold and the activity of the remaining outlets is conducted "in strict conformity with legislation." The head of the Legal Department of the Moscow patriarchate, Sister Kseniia, explained to Kommersant that the annex is allotted for its use only a portion of the territory of the church building; sale of, for example, jewelry is not conducted in it since the charter of the annex permits the sale only of wares for religious use. "The annex does not have anything to do with the activity that the lawsuit talks about," Sister Kseniia reported. "I submit that it should be ruled an inappropriate defendant." (tr. by PDS, posted 7 June 2012)

Russian original posted on site, 6 June 2012

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Trial of punk protestors may begin in two months

Interfax-Religiia, 7 June 2012

Attorneys of the members of the "Pussy Riot" punk group intend to become acquainted with materials of the criminal case on the incident of the sensational action in the church of Christ the Savior in two months. "The case has on the order of 7 volumes, over 2,000 pages; it they do not cut short our time and hinder a normal acquaintance, this could take on the order of two months," the attorney for one of the defendants, Nikolai Polozov, told Interfax.

He said that after acquaintance with the case, the attorneys will decide whether to request a dismissal of the criminal case and what kind of petitions to prepare.

N.Polozov reported that the defense will request a change in their clients' preventive measure; the term of their detention expires at the end of June. "Without doubt, we will insist on the choice of any preventive measure other than imprisonment—bond, house arrest, release on own recognizance," the defense attorney noted.

Last Monday the investigator completed work on the case dealing with the incident in the church of Christ the Savior that happened on 21 February. (tr. by PDS, posted 7 June 2012)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

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