Moscow (AsiaNews) - The awarding of an ironic prize to the
Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill - for months at the center of
controversy and media scandals - has sparked a strong reaction from the Russian
Duma, where lawmakers plan to propose increased penalties for those who offend
religious sentiment. According to a report in the newspaper Izvestia, the deputies of the ruling
party United Russia are preparing amendments to Article 282 of the penal code,
which deals with '"incitement to hatred, hostility and humiliation of
human dignity." The changes to the paper, says the deputy Alexey
Zhuravlyov, "will define this offense more precisely and allow to bring to
justice, for example, the organizers of the 'Silver Galosh' award. If the
amendments are adopted", he added, "they risk either a fine of
300,000 rubles (7,250 euros) or one to two years in prison."
The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church was recently
awarded the "Silver Galosh", organized by the radio station
Serebrjannaja dozhd and awarded annually to those who have acheived the most
unlikely results in the world of showbiz.
According to the prize jury, Kirill won for "the
immaculate disappearance" of a watch from his wrist, thanks to the
airbrushing done by his press office. The reference is to a photo, published in
April on the website of the Patriarchate, in which Kirill is sitting at the
table with the Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov: the expensive Breguet on
his wrist was not there, but you could see it reflected on the polished surface
of the table under the Patriarch's arm. Russian bloggers had complained about
the airbrushing and the case led to resignation of the press officer.
The award made even more noise because it was symbolically
awarded by one of the leaders of the anti-Putin opposition, journalist Ksenia
Sobchak, who "as a believer" said she was "offended by the
behavior of the Patriarchate: from VIP passes to see the relic of the belt of
the Virgin in Moscow, to the penalty for Pussy Riot", the girls in the
punk band who for a performance that was deemed blasphemous, in Christ the
Saviour Cathedral in Moscow, are now in prison.
It is precisely Pussy Riot, according to the deputy
Zhuravlyov, that ought to be prosecuted under Art. 282 of the Penal Code for
incitement to religious hatred, and not for mere "vandalism".
Toughening penalties for those who insult or make fun of the Church, according
to the politician, is important because in that way those who organize events
such as the "Silver Galosh" award would think twice before doing so.
The amendments could be discussed in September in the autumn
parliamentary session. Meanwhile, the Head of Department for relations between
the Church and society, Vsevolod Chaplin, said that the Patriarchate is in full
agreement with the legislative initiative. "These events are aimed at
subverting power in society", said Chaplin, "to humiliate some and
praise others. This can lead society to the brink of civil war."