After meeting Pope Francis in Cuba, the head of Russia’s Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, flew to Antarctica to walk with penguins.
Patriarch Kirill held prayers at a research station before taking a walk with the animals.
A picture of the 69-year-old kneeling eye-to-eye with one went viral.
Russia has 10 research stations in the Antarctic, able to accommodate up to 120 people. Patriarch Kirill visited one, the Bellingshausen research station on the island of Waterloo.
The Russian Orthodox church near the Bellingshausen station, which opened in 2004, is the only church on the continent to hold services all year round, with priests spending the winter there.
Church officials said Patriarch Kirill prayed for polar researchers, including 64 Russians who have died on polar expeditions.
The patriarch’s visit was the first ever by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church to Antarctica. It followed the first encounter between a head of Russian Orthodox Church and a pope in nearly 1,000 years.
Since becoming Pope in 2013, Pope Francis has called for better relations between the different branches of Christianity.
The adjourned appeal hearing for three activists from the Russian punk band Pussy Riot has started in Moscow.
In August, the trio were jailed for two years for staging an anti-Kremlin protest in Moscow’s main cathedral, Christ the Saviour.
The appeal was adjourned last week because one of the defendants said she wanted time to replace her lawyer.
Yekaterina Samutsevich told the judge she had a difference of opinion with her original counsel.
The 30-year-old and fellow band members Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, were found guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” in August.
Their imprisonment sparked condemnation in many parts of the world.
The band performed an obscenity-laced song in front of the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral on 21 February.
The adjourned appeal hearing for three activists from the Russian punk band Pussy Riot has started in Moscow
The “punk prayer” – which implored the Virgin Mary to “throw out” President Vladimir Putin and sought, the band said, to highlight the Russian Orthodox Church leader’s support for the president – enraged the Church.
But while the Church hierarchy said the women’s action “cannot be left unpunished”, it added that any penitence shown should be taken into consideration.
Those comments followed a suggestion from Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev that a suspended sentence would have been sufficient punishment.
But the women’s lawyers have said their clients would not repent if it meant admitting guilt.
They have said they doubt the appeal will be successful, with analysts suggesting that while the band members’ sentences might be reduced, they were unlikely to be overturned.
A Russian court in Moscow has begun hearing an appeal by three activists from punk band Pussy Riot.
In August, three members of Pussy Riot were jailed for two years for staging an anti-Kremlin protest in Moscow’s main cathedral, Christ the Saviour.
The Russian Orthodox Church said on Sunday that clemency should be possible for the trio as long as they repented what they called their “punk prayer”.
But their lawyers have said that they doubt the appeal will be successful.
The three band members – Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30 – were found guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” in August.
Their imprisonment sparked condemnation in many parts of the world.
The Pussy Riot members were all present in the Moscow court on Monday, in a glass-fronted defendants’ cage.
Yekaterina Samutsevich argued with the judge, complaining that her request for a different defence lawyer had not been met. The hearing was then adjourned temporarily.
Their obscenity-laced performance on 21 February, which implored the Virgin Mary to “throw out” President Vladimir Putin and sought, they said, to highlight the Russian Orthodox Church leader’s support for the president, enraged the Church.
But, in a statement, the Church said that though the women’s action “cannot be left unpunished”, if they showed penitence and reconsideration of their action their words “shouldn’t be left unnoticed”.
“The Church sincerely wishes for the repentance of those who desecrated a holy place, certainly it would benefit their souls,” senior Church spokesman Vladimir Legoida said.
The Church’s comments follow a suggestion from Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev last month that a suspended sentence would have been sufficient punishment for the women.
Their lawyers have said that their clients will not repent if it means admitting guilt.
“If they [the Church] mean repentance in the sense of a crime … it definitely won’t happen. Our clients won’t admit guilt. A call for that is pointless,” lawyer Mark Feigin told independent TV channel Dozhd on Sunday.
The father of one of the jailed women said that whether they repent or not, the trio has little hope of their sentences being quashed.
“The sentence is predetermined; their repentance will not affect it in any way,” Stanislav Samutsevich told Reuters.
Two members of punk-rock group Pussy Riot, who are being sought by Russian police, have fled the country, the band’s Twitter account says.
Three members of the group were jailed this month for staging an anti-Vladimir Putin protest in a Moscow cathedral.
The pair who fled has not been named but the husband of one of the jailed women said the duo had taken part in the cathedral protest in February.
Many in the West condemned the Pussy Riot sentences as disproportionate.
However, the Kremlin has rejected accusations by musicians and some governments that the case was politically motivated.
Two members of punk-rock group Pussy Riot, who are being sought by Russian police, have fled the country
Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich were found guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and jailed for two years.
The Twitter account called Pussy Riot Group said: “In regard to the pursuit, two of our members have successfully fled the country! They are recruiting foreign feminists to prepare new actions!”
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s husband, Pyotr Verzilov, told Reuters news agency: “Since the Moscow police said they are searching for them, they will keep a low profile for now. They are in a safe place beyond the reach of the Russian police.”
He suggested that this meant a country that had no extradition arrangement with Russia.
Pyotr Verzilov told Reuters: “Twelve or even 14 members who are still in Russia actively participate in the band’s work now, it’s a big collective.”
The jailed women are appealing against their sentences.
Following the verdict, Russian police said they were actively searching for other members of the group who had taken part in the cathedral protest.
But they gave no names and did not say how many were being sought.
The jailed women said their performance of a “punk prayer” on 21 February in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral had been to highlight the Russian Orthodox Church leader’s support for Vladimir Putin.
Their brief, obscenity-laced performance, which implored the Virgin Mary to “throw Putin out”, enraged the Orthodox Church.
The three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot accused of hooliganism have been jailed for two years after staging an anti-Vladimir Putin protest in a Moscow cathedral.
Judge Marina Syrova convicted the women of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, saying they had “crudely undermined social order”.
The women say the protest, in February, was directed at the Russian Orthodox Church leader’s support for Vladimir Putin.
The US, UK and EU all criticized the sentences as “disproportionate”.
Prosecutors had been seeking a three-year jail sentence for the women.
Judge Marina Syrova said Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, had offended the feelings of Orthodox believers and shown a “complete lack of respect”.
“Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Samutsevich committed hooliganism – in other words, a grave violation of public order,” Judge Marina Syrova said.
Along with other members of their band, the women staged a flashmob-style performance of their song close to the altar in the cathedral on 21 February.
Judge Marina Syrova convicted Pussy Riot members of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred
Their brief, obscenity-laced performance, which implored the Virgin Mary to “throw Putin out”, enraged the Orthodox Church – its leader Patriarch Kirill said it amounted to blasphemy.
Vladimir Putin was elected for a third term as president two weeks later.
Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich, watching Friday’s proceedings from inside a glass-walled cage in the courtroom, smiled as the widely predicted conviction was announced.
The judge then took three hours to read the verdict, before handing down “two years deprivation of liberty in a penal colony” for each defendant.
“Considering the nature and degree of the danger posed by what was done, the defendants’ correction is possible only through an actual punishment,” Judge Marina Surova said.
One man in the courtroom shouted “shame” at the sentencing, and there were chants and whistles from the band’s supporters outside.
Nadezdha Tolokonnikova’s husband, Pyotr Verzilov, said: “Russia’s image was quite scary even before [this]. What happened now is a clear sign that Russia is moving towards becoming more like China or North Korea.”
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny added: “They are in jail because it is Putin’s personal revenge. This verdict was written by Vladimir Putin.”
The defendants’ lawyer, Nikolai Polozov, said they would not appeal to President Vladimir Putin for a pardon. However, there will be a legal appeal against the verdict.
Amnesty International said the ruling was a “bitter blow” for freedom of expression in Russia.
EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and the UK’s Foreign Office criticized the severity of the sentences.
US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: “We urge Russian authorities to review this case and ensure that the right to freedom of expression is upheld.”
On Thursday, Nadezdha Tolokonnikova had said she was “not bitter about being in jail”. But, speaking through her lawyer on Twitter, she said: “Politically, I am furious.”
“Our imprisonment serves as a clear and unambiguous sign that freedom is being taken away from the entire country,” she said.
The women have been detained for the past five months.
Associated Press news agency said a number of protesters had been arrested outside the court before the sentencing was announced, including ex-world chess champion Garry Kasparov and opposition politician Sergei Udaltsov.
There were also pro-Pussy Riot protests in Paris, where demonstrators in Igor Stravinsky square chanted “Freedom”, and in Kiev, where women protesters sawed down a wooden cross in a central square.
Other shows of support took place in Belgrade, Berlin, Sofia, London, Dublin and Barcelona.
The band has also had vocal support from artists including Paul McCartney and Madonna, and from politicians.
Critics of the band have also been demonstrating, saying the stunt was an insult to the Russian Orthodox Church.
Igor Kim from Moscow said: “Shouting and screaming and spreading hate in Church is unacceptable and is contrary with Christian ethics.”
Valentina Ivanova, a retired doctor, told Reuters: “What they did showed disrespect towards everything, and towards believers first of all.”
One protester outside court in Moscow simply shouted: “Let Pussy Riot and all their supporters burn in hell.”
Madonna has appealed for the release of three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot during her MDNA show in Moscow.
Madonna told a crowd at the Olympic Stadium on Tuesday night that she was praying for the women’s freedom.
She briefly wore a balaclava – in a nod to Pussy Riot’s trademark outfits – and had the group’s name on her back.
Prosecutors have called for the women, who are accused of inciting religious hatred, to be jailed for three years.
The judge is expected to start delivering her verdict on 17 August. Announcing the verdict could take days, correspondents say.
Madonna has appealed for the release of three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot during her MDNA show in Moscow
Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, played a song attacking Russian leader Vladimir Putin in front of the altar of Moscow’s main cathedral on 21 February.
They said it was a reaction to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, publicly backing Vladimir Putin in elections.
Addressing cheering fans at the stadium, Madonna said: “I know there are many sides to every story, and I mean no disrespect to the church or the government, but I think that these three girls – Masha, Katya, Nadya – I think that they have done something courageous.”
“I know that everyone in this auditorium, if you are here as my fan, feels they have the right to be free,” she said.
Other international musicians including Sting and the Red Hot Chili Peppers have also appealed for leniency.
Artist Yoko Ono has spoken out in support of the band.
In a Twitter post, John Lennon’s widow said: “Mr. Putin you are a wise man & don’t need to fight with musicians & their friends.”
In a closing statement to the court on Wednesday, Pussy Riot’s lead singer, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, said the court was carrying out a Stalin-era “political order for repression”.
She said that the authorities had refused to listen to the group, and that it was “not a trial over Pussy Riot but of the entire Russian political system”.
The three women have been sitting inside a glass cage at the courtroom.
Last week, Vladimir Putin, who was re-elected president in March, called for leniency towards the women during a visit to London for the Olympic Games.
There are fears among Russian opposition activists that the trial is part of a crackdown on dissent since Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin, following the biggest anti-government protests in recent Russian history.
Pussy Riot’s performance inside Christ the Saviour Cathedral was captured on video.
The women danced and sang a song which parodies a Christian prayer, imploring the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Vladimir Putin.
Defence lawyer Mark Feygin argued on Tuesday that the case against the women did not stand up because they had been charged with hooliganism under Article 213 of the Russian penal code yet no violence or damage had occurred or been threatened.
Russian President Vladimir Putin reacts awkwardly as a priest bows to kiss his hand during a visit to country’s northern Valaam Island.
Vladimir Putin visited a 14th century monastery on Valaam Island, but appears ruffled when a Russian Orthodox priest tries to kiss his hand.
The peculiar incident came during Vladimir Putin’s visit to the Holy Transfiguration Valaam Monastery on Valaam Island in the north of the country.
It was going smoothly at first as Vladimir Putin greeted believers outside a cathedral, and then shook hands with several Russian Orthodox priests.
Vladimir Putin reacts awkwardly as a priest bows to kiss his hand during a visit to country's northern Valaam Island
However, footage aired on Russian state television showed how a priest bowed and tried to kiss the leader’s hand before Vladimir Putin sharply withdrew his hand away and made a fist by the side of his head.
Vladimir Putin, who has ruled Russia as president or prime minister since 2000 and has projected a tough guy image, has enjoyed the support of Russian Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Kirill who gave him his approval during the head of state’s presidential election campaign this year.
Patriarch Kirill is also a key figure in the controversial Pussy Riot trial.
Mariya Alekhina, one of the three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot, on trial for an anti-Putin protest at Moscow’s main cathedral, has been given medical treatment in court, a lawyer says.
Medics were called when the women said they felt unwell on the third day of the trial on Wednesday, the court said.
The defendants say they are being deprived of sleep and are poorly fed, according to a defense lawyer.
They deny hooliganism charges in the case, which has divided Russia.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Mariya Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were taken into custody in February after performing a protest song against President Vladimir Putin at Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral.
The song outraged the Russian Orthodox Church, which accused them of blasphemy. Supporters say the case reflects the state’s growing intolerance of government opponents.
Mariya Alekhina, one of the three members of Pussy Riot, on trial for an anti-Putin protest at Moscow's main cathedral, has been given medical treatment in court
The first prosecution witness called on Wednesday testified that he was not in the cathedral during the performance and had only seen it on video.
Proceedings were interrupted for several hours to allow Mariya Alekhina to be given treatment after a fall in her blood sugar levels, defense lawyer Nikolay Polozov told Russian media. He added that Mariya Alekhina was a vegan and needed a special diet.
Later on Wednesday, there was a further interruption when Mariya Alekhina again repeatedly complained about feeling poorly, according to media reports.
Nikolay Polozov told the Interfax news agency that the defendants have been subjected to a punishing regime since the start of their trial.
“For a third day running, the girls have been woken at 5:00 a.m., held in a 1sq m [11 sq ft] unventilated room, after which they are taken to court,” he said.
“They are not fed, and court sessions last up to 12 hours, during which they are only given 20-30 minutes for a small snack of dry rations. They are then taken back to remand after midnight. They are also denied an evening meal and can only sleep for small number of hours.”
The women are facing the charge of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility and could face up to seven years in prison.
At the start of their trial on Monday, the three pleaded not guilty, but apologized for the offence their performance had caused.
The case has divided Russia, with many feeling the women are being made an example of as part of attempts to clamp down on the opposition.
The Russian Orthodox Church has apologized for showing a photo of its leader Patriarch Kirill in which a luxury watch he was wearing was airbrushed.
Patriarch Kirill’s gold Breguet watch is estimated to be worth more than $30,000 and was spotted by Russian bloggers.
The watch’s reflection could be seen in the 2009 photo on the church’s website.
The Patriarchate said the manipulation would be investigated and “the guilty ones will be punished severely”.
In a statement the Patriarch’s press service said “we reject on principle any use of photo editing software to alter the appearance of images.
“There will be a thorough investigation to determine why in this instance there was a crude violation of our internal ethical code. The guilty ones will be punished severely,” the statement said.
The Russian Orthodox Church has apologized for showing a photo of its leader Patriarch Kirill in which a luxury watch he was wearing was airbrushed
The original photo, dated 3 July 2009, showed a meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Russian Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov. The photoshopped version appeared this month.
Despite the airbrushing the watch’s presence was given away by its reflection on a polished table top.
After heated debate about it in the Russian blogosphere the Patriarchate first removed the enlarged image from the site and then removed the image altogether.
Now the Patriarchate says the original image is back in its archive.
In February 2012 a photo of Patriarch Kirill meeting President Vladimir Putin – who was prime minister at the time – showed Kirill wearing the Breguet watch.
Last week Patriarch Kirill told a Russian interviewer, Vladimir Solovyov, that expensive watches were not part of his official attire. He admitted owning a Breguet watch, but said he kept it in its box.