Last weekend four Orthodox remembrance crosses were sawn off in various Russian regions. The clergymen believe that a similar escapade of the Femen group in defence of Pussy Riot encouraged the vandals. Meanwhile, Orthodox activists demand to tighten punishment for the desecration of the Orthodox shrines. Members of the Pussy Riot punk group condemn the vandals.
The confrontation between supporters of the Pussy Riot punk group and the Russian Orthodox Church grew in a new, more radical stage, the Kommersant daily reported. On Sunday, Orthodox activists demanded to toughen punishment for the defilement of the Orthodox shrines. Overnight to August 25 unidentified vandals sew off the remembrance cross in Arkhangelsk and another three remembrance crosses in the Chelyabinsk Region. The clergymen believe that the vandals were instigated by a similar action of the Ukrainian feminists from the Femen group, who supported members of the Pussy Riot punk band this way. Meanwhile, the members of the punk group who were convicted for two years in prison denounce the destruction of the Orthodox shrines and do not rule out that such actions may be a provocative act, which the law enforcement agencies staged.
The actions of radical anti-clerical activists became more frequent in view of the criminal persecution of the Pussy Riot members in Russia. The escapade with the sawn-off remembrance crosses in Russia “shows graphically the moral image of those, who encroach on the church today,” chairman of the Synodal department for relations between the church and the society Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin. “They painted the walls of the churches recently, voiced the threats in the Internet, danced on the ambos and on the roofs and now began to destroy the remembrance crosses and set the churches on fire,” he noted.
The Pussy Riot members after the Femen action hasted to distance themselves from the anti-clerical actions, stating that they do not support Ukrainian feminists. “The action at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral was political rather than anti-religious. The sawn-off remembrance crosses look like a provocative act, which the law enforcement agencies staged, though this could be mentally disabled people. In any case this action is not in favour of Pussy Riot,” the Kommersant daily quoted Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s husband Pyotr Verzilov as saying. He noted that two Pussy Riot members fled Russia out of fears that the law enforcement agencies “will begin to persecute wrong people” amid the struggle with the anti-clerical actions.
The remembrance crosses will be restored in Arkhangelsk and the Chelyabinsk Region, the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported. A criminal case for vandalism has already been opened against the offenders.
The desecration cases of the remembrance crosses will most likely intensify the debates over the idea to form groups of Orthodox volunteers, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily noted. Last week head of the Holy Rus movement Ivan Otrakovsky stated about the forming of such groups to protect the churches and Orthodox shrines. Last Saturday Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov noted that he supports this initiative and submitted a relevant report in the police, he is planning to form “a group of enthusiasts” from the flock of his church that “will help the watch guards.”