- Four wooden crosses were sawn in half and torn down in two different regions
of Russia, stoking controversy about the respect for the values and religious
symbols, after the scandal caused by the international condemnation of Pussy
Russian Orthodox Church has demanded justice for the attacks that occurred in
the regions of Chelyabinsk and Arkhangelsk in the night between 24 and 25
August last, two weeks after the Ukrainian feminist group Femen used a chain
saw on a cross in Kiev. The
action was a protest against the sentence to two years imprisonment for the
members of the Pussy Riot punk band for staging an anti-Putin performance in the
cathedral of Moscow, in a trial which, according to many, was instigated by the
Kremlin in agreement with the Russian Patriarchate Orthodox.
In an interview with Echo of Moscow radio, Anna Shevchenko, a member of Femen, supported attacks on religious symbols in Russia and invited people to continue, while also claiming that the Ukrainian feminist group held any liability.
Vsevolod Chaplin - head of the department of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate for relations with the state and society - has asked the police to find the vandals and bring them before the law. "These actions clearly speak of the moral values of those who are attacking the Church - he told Interfax - with these symbolic actions they are seeking to impose their will on the majority of the population."
No criminal investigation has been opened thus far in either region. The crime of vandalism carries a sentence of up to three years in prison, recalls the Moscow Times newspaper.
The Patriarchate has found an unexpected ally in Piotr Verzilov, husband of Nadia Tolokonnikova, the most famous of the three Pussy Riot members in prison. The activist has condemned the attacks on the crosses and said that the group does not have anything to do with it.
The Orthodox Church in Russia and its leader, Patriarch Kirill, have been the object of intense criticism and media scandals in recent months, but some experts see the vandalism against crosses as an attack on the ordinary faithful. This perhaps because the attacks did not target the symbols of luxury and comfort for which the Church is criticized, but simple wooden crosses, noted journalist and commentator on religious issues, Andrei Zolotov.
The human rights ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, described the attacks as the work of "cowards" and demanded an official explanation of these actions.