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2 Nov, 2021 10:05

Russian Orthodox Church wants no criminal prosecution for insulting religion, on one condition

Russian Orthodox Church wants no criminal prosecution for insulting religion, on one condition

Remorse for wrongdoing should be taken into account by courts deciding whether to punish people under law protecting religious believers' feelings, the Russian Orthodox Church has said, after a series of high-profile cases.

Speaking to RIA Novosti on Monday, Vakhtang Kipshidze, a top Church official and spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, said that judges should consider whether defendants are sorry for their actions. Under the law, deliberately offending religious communities can carry hefty penalties, including up to a year in jail.

"The Church isn't interested in the person being punished," he said. "If a person repents, regrets what happens and wants to make amends, we always see this as the basis for them being exempted from criminal prosecution."

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His comments came just days after the latest in several police probes launched into social media stars posting revealing and sexually suggestive pictures in front of holy sites.

"I don't see an established trend in taking provocative photographs in front of cathedrals," he said. "Some people have a desire to gain popularity using famous places, objects and people – they want to become famous by any means necessary and they'll stop at nothing, seeing religious symbols as a way to boost their popularity and increase their numbers of subscribers."

According to Kipshidze, the number of prosecutions under laws designed to protect the feelings of believers in Russia is small, which he chalks up to its success as a deterrent, adding that the rules apply to all faiths.

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On Sunday, a court in St. Petersburg released a 36-year-old social media model from custody after she was detained for "insulting the feelings of religious believers" by publishing photographs revealing her bare backside in front of the city's landmark cathedral. Irina Volkova apologized to religious Russians and said she simply was "playing an Instablogger a little bit too hard… I've already thought that over. Everything will be deleted and this will never happen again."

Also last week, a court in Moscow sentenced a Tajik blogger and his Russian girlfriend to 10 months behind bars for a stunt in which they simulated oral sex in front of St. Basil's Cathedral on the city's iconic Red Square. Ruslan Bobiev (whose real name is Ruslani Murojonzod) and Asya Akimova (Anastasia Chistova) were the first to receive jail time under laws criminalizing actions undertaken "with the purpose of insulting the religious feelings of believers."

Also on rt.com Russian pornstar faces criminal probe for ‘offending feelings of believers’ by flashing breasts at St. Basil's Cathedral - media

Another incident, also in October, saw Moscow police open a probe into an OnlyFans model, known as Lola Bunny, over a clip in which she flashed her breasts in front of the same cathedral. She insists the stunt is over three years old, but officials have placed her under a travel ban, preventing her from leaving the city until an investigation is concluded.

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