8 Jan 2012

Patriarch urges govt to change its policies

7:50 am on 8 January 2012

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church is urging the government to change its policies in response to mass protests against ballot-rigging in the parliamentary elections last month.

Patriarch Kirill said it would be a very bad sign if the authorities remained insensitive to the demonstrations.

He added that he could not take sides in the election dispute as the church had members on both sides of the square.

The BBC reports the Church, which counts about 70% of Russians as members, has close links to the Kremlin.

The last big election protest rally on 24 December, drew up 100,000 people to central Moscow.

''The main thing is to translate correctly expressed protests into a policy adjustment,'' the patriarch said in a broadcast on 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.''

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party won the election on 4 December. He is expected to win a third term as president in March.