Times 2

Putin or Paul?

The all-women sect that worships Russian PM as the reincarnation of St. Paul
By Wil Longbottom

If results in the presidential election go his way next year, Vladimir Putin will become as all-powerful in Russia as is humanly possible. But for one all-women sect near the Volga, the current Prime Minister is already the subject of their veneration.

According to the group, founded by a woman known as Mother Fotina in the village of Bolshaya Yelnia, Mr Putin is the reincarnation of St Paul the Apostle. Mother Fotina -- whose real name is thought to be Svetlana Frolova -- Mr Putin's political career closely follows that of the early Christian missionary.

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She told Sobesednik: 'According to the Bible, Paul the Apostle was a military commander at first.
'In his days in the KGB, Putin also did some rather unrighteous things. 'But once he became the president, he was imbued with the Holy Spirit, and just like the apostle, he started heading his flock.'
Mother Fotina claims to have known the prime minister since he was Vladimir I of Kiev and she was Olga of Kiev, his grandmother.

There are few details about the sect, and it is not known how many women live in the 'abode' set up by Mother Fotina. Mr Putin has already been made the subject of pop songs, brands of vodka and even night club parties during his time as president and prime minister.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Mr Putin, said: 'It is impressive that they think so highly of the prime minister's work. 'But would like to recall another of the main commandments: thou shalt not worship false idols.'

Russian authorities said they were aware of the sect, but that they were not committing any illegal acts.
Mr Putin is reportedly considering a 2012 presidential bid and has made attempts to solidify support within his own political party ahead of elections next year.

Current president, Dmitry Medvedev, is believed to have given his support. It comes after the former KGB spy raised fears of a revival of the USSR earlier this week when he revealed plans to create a so-called 'Eurasian Union'.

Mr Putin wants the bloc to become 'one of the poles of the modern world' and a rival to the U.S., EU and Asia. In the past, he has lamented the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 as the 'greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century'.

Mr Peskov praised late Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev as a man who has played a largely positive role in the nation's history. Speaking on internet TV station Dozhd, he said Brezhnev made a strong contribution to the country's economic development.

Mr Putin's decision to seek another presidential term raises the possibility he could rule Russia until 2024 -- inviting comparisons with Brezhnev who led the country for 18 years until his death in 1982.
He served as president in 2000 -- 2008, but despite shifting to prime minister because of a term limit has remained the nation's number one leader.

He is all but certain to win a new six-year term in March 2012 and would be eligible to run again in 2018.

© Daily Mail, London

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