Russia May Soften Religion Law Over Putin Concerns
Russian lawmakers are reworking a draft law introducing prison terms for religious offences after signs that Vladimir Putin is concerned it could undermine the delicate balance between the country’s many religions.
The president’s party proposed the law after two members of the Pussy Riot punk band were jailed for two years over a protest in a cathedral against Putin’s increasingly close ties with the Russian Orthodox Church.
Putin has trod a thin line between celebrating a secular state of many religions and promoting the Russian Orthodox Church since rising to power in 2000, but has leaned more on the Orthodox Church for support since starting his third term as president in May following protests against his rule.
Opponents say the draft law is intended as part of broader Kremlin moves to suppress dissent and bolster public support by casting Putin, a former KGB spy, as the protector of religious believers.
Critics have also said the definition of offending religious feelings is so broad and vaguely defined in the draft law that it risks being ineffective or applied selectively in practice, hurting relations between Russia’s many religions.