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18 Mar, 2013 09:41

‘Christian extremists’ attack veteran Russian pro-democracy party

‘Christian extremists’ attack veteran Russian pro-democracy party

One of Russia’s oldest political parties has filed an official complaint after a group of people styling themselves as Orthodox Christian activists reportedly trashed the party’s office and lit a bonfire with their books.

The Yabloko party said in a statement on their website that on Sunday, a group of young people forced its way into the organization’s Moscow office, seized books published by Yabloko and burned them in a street bonfire.

The attackers, who claimed to represent the Orthodox Christian public movement Will of God, recorded a video of the incident and posted it on the Internet, calling the event “an action of the Orthodox inquisition” with “confiscation and burning of the pulp literature issued by Yabloko – the party of Satanists and perverts.”

A Will of God leader said that the movement will file a request with the Prosecutor-General’s Office that Yabloko be deemed an extremist organization for “corrupting the Russian people and opposing the Russian Orthodox Church and its program of building new churches in Moscow.”

The activists also alleged that Yabloko received funding from abroad, as part of an attempt to corrupt and undermine the pillars of Russian society.

After reporting the incident, Yabloko said it would also address the Prosecutor-General’s office to call for an investigation into the incident.

Yabloko party head Sergey Mitrokhin called the attackers “Orthodox fascists” and said that President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church had engineered the scandal in order to damage Yabloko.

The longer the church remains silent about the Orthodox fascism, the bigger will be the damage to its reputation,” Mitrokhin said.

The head of the Moscow Patriarchy’s department for relations between the Church and the society, Vsevolod Chaplin, said in a televised interview that he believed the Will of God activists were “slightly more aggressive than they should be”. The cleric also opined that not all Yabloko members or leaders were “spiritual people”, and that the Orthodox parish had the right to express its beliefs, but that this should be done peacefully.

The standoff between devout believers and their equally devout secular opponents has recently become an urgent issue in Russian domestic politics. This conflict reached its apparent climax in February 2012, when feminist punk group Pussy Riot staged a mock performance in Moscow’s biggest cathedral, protesting what they called collusion between the Russian Orthodox Church and the state.

Three members of the group were detained, tried and sentenced to two years in prison for aggravated hooliganism; one of the women was released on probation a short time afterwards. The incident divided Russian society, sparking a wave of incidents involving blasphemy and vandalism.

In September of last year, the Russian parliament drafted a law mandating lengthy prison terms for insults to religious belief. However, the government and Supreme Court turned down the draft and sent it back to the parliament for a rewrite

The social-liberal Yabloko party is one of Russia’s oldest political organizations. It has always maintained a distinctly liberal and pro-democratic agenda, and had parliamentary representation until 2007. Currently, the party is focused on municipal and regional politics.