Factory gives fighter jet to head of
Russian Orthodox Church
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[September 17, 2014]
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Patriarch Kirill,
the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, was presented with an unlikely
gift for a religious leader this week as he toured a factory in Russia's
far-east - a single-seater fighter jet SU-35.
Kirill was presented with the jet after giving workers at the
civilian and military aircraft plant icons blessed by himself, the
church said in a statement on its official website on Tuesday.
The patriarch, with whom President Vladimir Putin has fostered
increasingly close ties in recent years, addressed the workers on
the importance of protecting Russia.
"Russia cannot be a vassal. Because Russia is not only a country, it
is a whole civilization, it is a thousand-year story, a cultural
melting-pot, of enormous power," RIA news agency quoted him as
"In order for us to be able to live a sovereign life, we must, if
necessary, be able to defend our homeland."
Kirill's church is aligned with Putin's drive to reunite the former
Soviet sphere of countries, with the Russian Orthodox Church
exerting considerable influence through its 165 million members in
Russia and other former USSR republics.
Critics of the Russian Orthodox Church have said it is acting as a
de-facto government ministry for Putin, including in foreign
affairs, and have warned that such political engagements could
That also goes for Ukraine, where Kirill's Moscow Patriarchate is at
odds with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kiev Patriarchate that
seceded from Moscow after Ukraine gained independence in 1991.
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The Moscow Patriarchate dominates in the Russian-speaking East,
where Ukrainian forces have been battling a pro-Russian separatist
insurgency since April.
(Reporting by Alessandra Prentice; Additional reporting by Thomas
Grove; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
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