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Russian lawmakers differ on law on protection of believers' feelings

May 21, 2013, 13:34 UTC+3

A Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov said a number of definitions might get many citizens into trouble

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MOSCOW, May 21 (Itar-Tass) - Russian lawmakers differed in their views on wordings in the resounding bill on the protection of believers' feelings, whose main, 2nd reading is under review in parliament. A Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov said a number of definitions might get many citizens into trouble, while the Liberal Democratic Party /LDPR/ believes it is better to slightly overreact. The ruling United Russia party said the law protects interests of a majority.

In Mironov's opinion, even after improvements to the lawbill made by the 2nd reading, "colleagues are still critical of some wordings."

"That they will be punishing for deeds, not words is already a positive point. Nevertheless, from our point of view, many citizens who never intend to hurt religious feelings may get into trouble." Therefore, A Just Russia will not vote on the new legislation, Mironov said.

LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky explained tougher legislation by the fact that "religions is beginning to play an ever greater role; so it is better to slightly overreact and not create inter-ethnic conflicts in order not to explode the situation; it particularly concerns the Muslims."

United Russia faction member Mikhail Markelov underlined that "in the first place, the law envisions responsibility for the action which hurts believers' feelings," not for statements. He is confident that it protects the interests of a majority of Russians and "does not encroach on anyone's interests."

"If the liberal public is opposed to this legislation, but actively supports the laws that protect the interests of minorities - be they sexual or religious minorities - it would be logical that this minority should respect the interests of a majority of our citizens," Markelov added.

The house is to vote on the lawbill after 17:00, Moscow time.

The bill on protection of believers' feelings was submitted to the State Duma by all the factions on September 26, 2012. It amends the Criminal Code with an article that envisions punishment for actions aimed at "insulting religious beliefs and feelings and/or desecration of objects or items of worship/pilgrimage, and places of worship. A public insult of rites by religious associations and a public insult of citizens’ religious feelings is punished by fines up to 300,000, or community work for up to 200 hours, or a 3-year jail term. The State Duma approved the 1st reading of the bill on April 9.

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