‘Russian FBI’ Asked to Find Man’s Soul

MOSCOW, November 29 (Alexey Eremenko, RIA Novosti) – A Christian musician from Siberia asked Russia’s Investigative Committee to look into the “theft” of the soul of a Pussy Riot supporter who doubted God’s existence.

The allegedly soulless man, photographer Vasily Melnichenko, was the first to complain to the investigators, asking them in mid-November to apply their talents to search for the Divine.

A believer since 1988, Melnichenko spent about $400 a year on church-related activities, but never obtained the bliss he was promised, he told RIA Novosti by telephone from Omsk.

If God is not real the church should be sued for fraud, and if He is found, the investigators should check whether He authorized the Russian Orthodox Church to represent Him and collect money in His name, said Melnichenko, 40.

Some acquaintances stopped associating with the photographer, fearing that the government – though not God – will crack down on him in return for the tongue-in-cheek demarche, though others praised him, Melnichenko said.

The story already prompted famous Christian theologian Andrei Kurayev to publicly dub Melnichenko “a fool.” But other believers chose not to turn the other cheek and answer complaint with complaint.

Melnichenko’s “consumerist” query implies that he has no soul, which is missing and possibly stolen, said Oleg Perfilov, a resident of Novosibirsk.

The Investigative Committee should look for the photographer’s soul and charge the malefactors with large-scale theft, punishable with up to five years behind bars, Perfilov said.

Though similar crimes are usually attributed to Satan, Perfilov named no suspects in his complaint, filed with the investigators on Tuesday.

The Investigative Committee, a law enforcement body similar in function to the FBI, did not reply to a request concerning possible inquiries into God and/or Lord of Lies, faxed on Wednesday.

Panfilov told RIA Novosti he did not really expect a probe into the disappearance of Melnichenko’s soul, “which is where it’s supposed to be, though its condition raises questions.”

“He treats the church as a shop. I just wanted to show that some believers don’t approve of it,” said Panfilov, 21, an amateur folk singer.

“Church is a shop that sells fear,” Melnichenko, who is leaning toward agnosticism, said in a separate interview.

He called his own complaint a reaction to the Pussy Riot trial. Three members of the provocative band were sent to prison in August for performing an anti-Kremlin “punk prayer” at an Orthodox Christian cathedral.

The band’s case was handled by the Investigative Committee, which indicted them for hatemongering against believers based on obscure church rules from the 7th century. Critics said the shaky reasoning was a pretext for political persecution, though the church, the Kremlin and the committee denied it.


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