A founder of a religious cult glorifying Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin believes that the powerful premier is the reincarnation of Saint Paul, the Russian tabloid Sobesednik reported on Wednesday.
The sect, founded by one Mother Fotinya, is based in the Bolshaya Elnya village in the central Russian Nizhny Novgorod region.
Fotinya was quoted by the paper as saying that there were certain parallels between the life of former president Putin and St. Paul.
"According to the Bible, Paul the Apostle used to be a warlord and the fierce persecutor of Christians, and then he began preaching the Gospel. Putin also was not a saint during his service in the KGB. But when he became president, the Holy Ghost descended on him," Fotinya was quoted as saying.
The sect possesses a Putin icon that Fotinya claims miraculously appeared one day. Russian Christian sects have long been known for their unusual choices of icons, some of them praying to portraits of such well-known 'holy men' as Stalin and Ivan the Terrible.
Fotinya founded the cult in 2007. Her followers believe she is a powerful healer. Police say she previously spent a year in jail on forgery charges.
The paper said that local officials were aware of the sect's activities, but did not see anything illegal in them. Putin's spokesman said he knew nothing about the group.
Religion was tightly controlled in the U.S.S.R. and the collapse of the Soviet Union saw an explosion in sects and cults, as well as interest in New Age philosophies and beliefs.
One of the most well-known sects in Russia has its base near the southern Siberian town of Abakan, where thousands of people, both Russian and foreign, worship a former provincial traffic policeman, Sergei Torop, as the second coming of Christ.
MOSCOW, May 11 (RIA Novosti)