MOSCOW -- The Russian Orthodox Church has proposed a stop to the practice of having priests bless weapons of mass destruction.
Russians often ask priests to bless anything from new cars and flats to Soyuz spaceships in the belief that the gesture bestows divine protection.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, priests have begun blessing troops, planes and ships, and all sorts of weapons, from Kalashnikov rifles to nuclear-capable Iskander ballistic missiles.
But a church document published Monday (February 3) proposed that "blessing any type of weapons that can inflict an indefinite number of deaths, including weapons with indiscriminate effects or weapons of mass destruction... be removed from pastoral practice".
Linking religion to belligerence
The Russian military has forged ever closer ties to the church under Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, who is overseeing the construction of a huge cathedral outside Moscow for Russia's armed forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin identifies as a member of the church but has hardly displayed the pacificism that many observers associate with Christianity.
Putin last October watched as the country's armed forces tested missiles that can carry thermo-nuclear warheads during exercises involving "heightened tensions on Russia's border".
The games came soon after Russia and the United States abandoned the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which limited the use of nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500km.
"Russia bears sole responsibility for the demise of the treaty," NATO said last August.
Moscow's moves on the nuclear front come as it aggressively tests a number of weapons it has bragged -- without evidence -- are "invincible", even as it professes to be a peaceful country.
The Kremlin's military build-up during the Putin years has come at a high cost for the Russian population.
The Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia's only aircraft carrier, accidentally caught fire on December 12 after undergoing repairs for more than two years in Murmansk and suffered previous damage in October 2018 when a crane crashed onto its deck.
On August 8, an explosion during a test of a nuclear-powered missile killed five Russian nuclear agency personnel near Severodvinsk and released elevated radiation levels.
An ammunition depot in Achinsk, Krasnoyarsk Province, was rocked by explosions August 5 and 9. One person was killed in the first incident and nine injured in the second.
In July, 14 seamen, including seven high-ranking officers, were killed in a fire on a deep submersible in the Barents Sea.
The deadly crash of a Russian-built Mi-8 helicopter in Kazakhstan last March 27, which killed all 13 troops on board, is another example of the plethora of Russian military mishaps.