MARCH 2 2012 20:29h

Higher fines sought for offending beliefs in Russia

Higher fines sought for offending beliefs in Russia

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MOSCOW, March 2 (UPI) -- A Russian lawmaker has proposed a ten-fold increase in fines and up to 15 days' administrative arrest for insulting religious beliefs.

Under a bill proposed by United Russia Party member Alexander Sidyakin, fines for offending religious beliefs or desecration of holy objects or symbols would be increased from the current $17-$34 to $170-$340, RIA Novosti reported.

Sidyakin said current fines are "insignificant and cannot serve as a deterrent against offending religious feelings."

He said the bill came in response to a stunt by the feminist group Pussy Riot in downtown Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral.

Five masked members of the female group stormed the church to perform a "punk prayer" criticizing what it called the church's links to the Kremlin.

After the incident, Vsevolod Chaplin, a church spokesman, demanded blasphemy be made a criminal offense.

City police opened a case against the group on charges of hooliganism, which carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison.