Church Cigarette Stunt May Mean Jail for Russian Woman
She's charged with 'insulting the feelings of religious believers'
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 7, 2017 11:51 AM CST
Russian President Vladimir Putin lights a candle in the Lifegiving Trinity Church in Moscow.   (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service)

(Newser) – A young woman in western Russia picked the wrong time to be "insulting," as a controversial law approved by President Vladimir Putin in 2013 describes it. Or more likely, the 21-year-old is deliberately provoking authorities. Her crime? She posted a photo of herself lighting a cigarette with a candle in a Russian Orthodox church in the city of Belgorod, reports the Moscow Times. For that, she has been charged with "insulting the feelings of religious believers," under a law that came about in the wake of the stunts pulled by the feminist punk group Pussy Riot. She faces up to three years in prison, reports the London Times.

"This is bad behavior, of course, but she should simply have been kicked out of the church," says Alexander Verkhovsky, whose Sova Centre group monitors anti-extremism measures. "It should not be a criminal offense." Hers is not the only such case to generate headlines. A 22-year-old man posted a video of himself playing Pokémon Go in a church in Yekaterinburg after state television warned that such game-playing was a no-no. He, too, was charged under the new law, and has been held since October. No trial dates appear to have been set in either case. (Russia, meanwhile, is decriminalizing domestic violence so long as it only happens once a year.)

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