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Russian Orthodox Church To Increase Role In Army

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill

MOSCOW -- Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has announced in Moscow that some 400 Orthodox Christian chaplains would be sent to the Russian Army this year, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

The chaplains will be young clergymen with military experience and/or young soldiers and officers who have a religious education.

Patriarch Kirill also said at an eparchy session on February 2 that in 2010 all the commanders of army's units at the brigade and division level will have aides for religious issues.

Last year, President Dmitry Medvedev publicly supported the idea of reinstating religious leaders in the Russian Army but added that leaders of all Russia's traditional religions should be in the army, and not just Orthodox Christian priests.

The Defense Ministry reports that 60 percent of Russian Army soldiers say they believe in God. Almost 80 percent of those believers are Orthodox Christians, 13 percent are Muslims, 3 percent are Buddhists, and 1 percent are Jews. The country's constitution states that the Russian Federation is a secular country where religion is separate from the state.