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MOSCOW, September 24 (Itar-Tass) — State Duma deputies hold that grave insults to believers’ feelings should be punished by three years of imprisonment. Such punishment will be suggested by the bill drafted now to be referred to the lower house of parliament, Sergei Popov of United Russia, the first deputy head of the State Duma Committee for Public Associations and Religious Organizations, one of the authors of the amendments, told Itar-Tass on Monday.
He said the maximum punishment would be three years of imprisonment depending on the gravity of the crime. The drafting of the bill must be completed on Wednesday and then the bill would be referred to the State Duma, said the MP. He said there must be reasonable combination of fines, correctional works and imprisonment, depending on the gravity of the crime. Popov also intimated that the government had no objections in principle to the bill.
The opposition in the State Duma on the whole supported the idea of resuming criminal responsibility for insulting feelings of believers. “We agree that it is possible to restore a relevant article in the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation,” Sergei Obukhov of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), the deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee for Public Associations and Religious Organizations, told Itar-Tass on Monday. He said, though, that the Communists’ final stand on the amendments would depend on how they are formulated. “Or else, it may so happen that a phrase in some public statement may entail criminal responsibility,” he cautioned. “We agree with restoring the article as an idea but all depends on how it is implemented,” he said.
Vladimir Yemelyanov, the deputy head of A Just Russia faction, said, “The idea is good, but it is necessary to see how it is carried out.” “Nihilism is gaining the ground everywhere,” he noted. “And for Russia, the situation with the Pussy Riot [punk group] and damage done to crosses showed that it [the idea] is relevant to us, too.” “Stricter responsibility would be positive, but it is important to see that it be applied correctly,” said the MP.
Earlier in the day, Popov told a meeting of the inter-factional group for the protection of Christian values that the United Russia faction in the State Duma demands restoring the article on responsibility for insulting the feelings believers in the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. He explained that at the moment there was an article on vandalism which worked in a very specific way but “the second part of the article that implies imprisonment doesn’t work at all.”
On September 13, Yaroslav Nilov of the LDPR, the head of the relevant committee, said the drafting of the bill was in the offing. Saying that at present there was a “laughable” penalty of 1,000 rubles for the administrative offence [of insulting religious feelings], he noted that the article would envisage punishment depending on the gravity of the offence, ranging from fines to correctional works and compulsory labor to imprisonment.