|Russian protester in front of the Ministry of Justice.|
Amnesty International calls for the immediate and unconditional release of three young women arrested by the Russian authorities as members of the punk group ‘Pussy Riot’ who staged a protest song in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral on 21 February.The phrase "immediate and unconditional" to the Russian ear evokes the calls for surrender of German armed forces at the end of WWII. In other words, Amnesty International (AI) is provocatively calling for Russian capitulation. Sadly, this call does not improve the chances of the jailed women.
The band members of Pussy Riot explained that the goal of "punk service" was not desecration of a church, but a protest against the position of Patriarch Kirill, who allowed the "Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) to become a tool in the dirty electoral intrigues".
Not surprisingly, Patriarch Kirill recently condemned calls for leniency for the "punk service" in Moscow's main cathedral. The Russian punk band was doing devil's work, said the saintly leader of the ROC.
In its call for release of jailed Pussy Riot members, AI noted that the band has left the church peacefully shortly after being asked, and caused no damage. Furthermore, the charges against the women mention the anti-Putin message of their performance.
Patriarch Kirill's calls for harshness in prosecution of Pussy Riot may appear justified by the anti-religious message of the "punk service". The band's message was actually anti-clerical. I was stunned to find that Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the ROC, has openly supported Putin's candidacy for the reelection! Apparently the only separation of church and state he has heard about happened during the Soviet times, and loss of state patronage was a real challenge for the Church. It's much better to be helping the rulers to control the masses, than to oppose the powerful, even if they are ex-KGB.
Patriarch Kirill has become embroiled in a series of scandals. At the end of the March a story broke in mass media in Russia around an apartment belonging to the Patriarch, where a relative of his lives. The charge is that this lady attempted to steal her neighbor's apartment through a lawsuit alleging damage to the Patriarch's library from the renovations in the neighbor's flat. The Patriarch faced such a firestorm that he could only promise, as he did to donate the money to charity. He has recently received 20 million rubles, from his neighbor whose son was forced to sell the apartment to pay these damages.
A number of members of Russian parliament have spoken about organized "hounding" of the Patriarch, which has "general-European character". Some called criticism of the Patriarch a part of Russo-phobic, and anti-christian campaign by the opposition and the "so-called libertarians".
It seems that the Patriarch is not hurting for money. Recently, another row was caused by a touch-up of a online photo, which showed Patriarch Kirill wearing a Breguet watch valued at 28-36 thousand dollars. The bloggers noticed the undoctored the reflection of this very expensive watch. The ROC has apologized for doctoring the photo.
The reflection of the watch (green outline) from Patriarch's left hand
revealed when the pricey watch (red outline) was doctored away.
The wheel has come full circle. The Church which Communists despised and looted is back in favor with the government. The ironies are many, but the most cynical one is that the main Moscow cathedral where the Pussy Riot performed its sacrilegious service is a rebuilt replica - the original was blown up by the Bolsheviks in 1931 - some ROC officials had the audacity to compare the Bolsheviks favorably with the unsanctioned show, which protested Patriarch's endorsement of reelection of ex-KGB colonel.