Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill urges Kremlin to heed protesters

January 7, 2012

(Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill (C) conducts a religious service to mark an Orthodox Christmas Mass at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow late on January 6, 2012. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin)

The leader of Russia’s Orthodox Church urged the government Saturday to make political changes in response to post-election protests, in a rare departure from its traditional backing of the Kremlin. Patriarch Kirill’s comments suggested the church may want to mediate between government and protesters.

“The main thing is for protests, which are properly expressed, to lead to a correction of the political course,” Kirill said in an interview on state television on Orthodox Christmas Day. “If the government remains insensitive to the expressions of protest, it is a very bad sign, it is a sign of the failure of the authorities to make adjustments,” he said.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has faced mass demonstrations following a December 4 election that protesters and international observers said was marred by fraud and violations. Despite mounting pressure, he is expected to comfortably win a presidential vote in March and return to the Kremlin.

Kirill also warned protesters against what he said was the risk of being manipulated by opposition leaders seeking to seize power for themselves. He said Russia could not risk a repeat of the revolution that swept the communists to power in 1917.

“Then we were unable to preserve balance and wisdom. We destroyed our country,” he said. “Why did this happen? Because the fair protests of people are very easily manipulated by those political forces who are fighting for power.”

Read the full story by Alissa de Carbonnel here.
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