Amid growing discontent from the public against Vladimir Putin, the head of Russia’s Orthodox Church has urged the Kremlin to enact reforms and policy changes.
Thousands of Russians have protested recent parliamentary elections in the country and charged that Putin and his United Russia Party have remained in power through fraudulent means, including vote-rigging.
One rally late last month drew about 100,000 people to the streets of Moscow, an almost unprecedented turnout.
Patriarch Kirill, who met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at a service in Moscow's Christ The Savior Cathedral on Friday evening, said in a televised message that if the government ignored the protesters it would constitute a very bad sign.”
The main thing is to translate correctly expressed protests into a policy adjustment, the patriarch said in the broadcast Saturday.
If the authorities remain insensitive to the expression of protests, it is a very bad sign, a sign of the authorities' inability to adjust themselves.
Krill also had some harsh words for the protesters, suggesting they might be used as pawns by the opposition, adding that Russia could not survive another 1917-type revolution.
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.
However, he added that he could take not sides in what is purely a secular matter.
Among our congregation are both the people who were at the demonstration and those they were speaking out against, therefore the word of the Church cannot be politicized, he stated.
Reportedly, Russian analysts were taken aback by the patriarch’s comments. since the church has been so closely linked to the Kremlin for the past twenty years.
BBC reported that almost three-fourths of Russia’s population are members of the Orthodox church.
Putin is expected to run for president in an election in March (he has already served two terms as president before becoming Prime Minister). Putin is widely expected to win.