Russian man facing prison for saying 'there is no God' condemns 'absurd farce'

'I was in shock when I heard I was being charged'

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The Independent Online

A man who is facing jail in Russia for writing "there is no God" has dismissed his prosecution as an "absurd farce".

Viktor Krasnov, 38, also added that the Bible consisted of "fairytales" during an heated online discussion.

He is now being prosecuted under a controversial new law that makes it a criminal offence to "insult the feelings of believers", which critics say is a sign of the cosy relationship between the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church in the country.

Mr Krasnov said he was "in shock" to learn he would be prosecuted for denying the existence of a god online. Atheism is such an unpopular view among the Russian authorities that a judge has demanded he have a psychiatric assessment.

"Yury Gargarin said 'I travelled into space, and I did not see God there'," Mr Krasnov told The Times, referring to a supposed quote from the first person in space.

"And now I'm being charged with insulting the feelings of religious believers? This is an absurd farce. I was in shock when I heard I was being charged."

The close relationship between Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and Russian Presindet Vladimir Putin is becoming increasingly evident in a case which could decide future law, said Mr Krasnov's lawyer, Andree Sabinin.

"This case could set a precedent," he told The Washington Times. "It could become accepted that it is forbidden to publicly deny the existence of God.”

Two Russian Orthodox Christians, with whom Mr Krasnov was in discussion on predominantly Russian networking site VKontakte, reported his views to the police.

His flat in Stavropol, some 860 miles south of Moscow, was subsequently raided and his trial began in March.

Before going to trial, a judge ordered Mr Krasnov to spend one month in a psychiatric ward to determine whether he was simply unbalanced.

"No one in their right mind would write anything against Orthodox Christianity and the Russian Orthodox Church," the judge reportedly told Mr Krasnov.

The new law about "insulting believers" is evidence of the "shrinking space for freedom of expression in Russia", Amnesty International has said.

Patriarch Kirill has previously said his president is a "miracle from God". Such a relationship is a marked turnaround from the Soviet era, when anti-religion propaganda was common.