Russian church urges Kremlin not to ignore vote protests

January 8th, 2012 - 12:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Jan 8 (IANS/RIA Novosti) The head of Russia’s Orthodox Church has asked the country’s leaders to listen to and act on the demands voiced at recent mass protests across the country over alleged vote rigging.”It would be a very bad sign if the authorities remain insensitive to the sentiments of the protests — a sign of their inflexibility,” Patriarch Kirill said in an interview to the Rossiya-1 TV channel.

“The authorities must re-adjust and change their policies. Society must have the right to express its dissatisfaction,” he said Saturday.

Moscow and many other cities across Russia have seen large anti-government protests over suspected vote fraud in favour of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party at the Dec 4 parliamentary polls. Protesters were still calling for a rerun of the elections and the dismissal of the election chief.

More protests are due in February, just a month before the March 4 presidential elections in which Putin is to seek a third stint in the Kremlin.

The Orthodox Church has enjoyed a dramatic rise in influence since the collapse of the atheist Soviet Union and Patriarch Kirill was recently granted official residence in the Kremlin.

The patriarch earlier appeared to side with the authorities when he warned in December of the dangers of internet “manipulation”. The election protests have been fuelled by uploaded clips of alleged vote fraud.

But he said Saturday that while the church could not take sides in the dispute, “lies must leave our political, economic social and personal lives”.

He said that although there could be no comparison between the situation in Russia before the 1917 revolution and other political movements that preceded the collapse of the Soviet Union, the potential for unrest existed.

The patriarch’s comments came a few days after senior Orthodox Church figure Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin said the demonstrations had changed Russia forever.

Chaplin, who is responsible for church and society relations, has warned that the authorities could be “slowly chewed up” if they did not listen to opposition voices.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny recently said he would like to see the church play a mediating role.

“I would very much like for the Russian Orthodox Church to take up such a role in society, so that all conflicting sides would seek and accept its mediation. Almost everywhere the main intermediary between dictators and protesters has been the church,” he said.

–IANS/RIA Novosti

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