He's been a pilot, a singer, a hockey star and even a shirtless beefcake. But now Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has become the ultimate object of veneration for an all-female religious sect whose members believe the premier is the reincarnation of St. Paul the Apostle.
As the Moscow Times is reporting, the sect was founded by a woman calling herself Mother Fotina in the village of Bolshaya Yelnia. Mother Fotina, whose real name is reportedly Svetlana Frolova, teaches her followers that Putin was St. Paul in his past life and that his political career follows in the early Christian missionary's footsteps. “According to the Bible, Paul the Apostle was a military commander at first,” she is quoted as saying. “In his days in the KGB, Putin also did some rather unrighteous things. But once he became president, he was imbued with the Holy Spirit, and just like the apostle, he started heading his flock."
Few further details, such as how many members the sect comprises, are currently unknown. But the charismatic politician's spokesman has expressed surprise at news of the group. "It is impressive that they think so highly of the prime minister's work," Dmitry Peskov told the Russian weekly Sobesednik, as quoted by the AFP. "But I would like to recall another of the main commandments: thou shalt not worship false idols." Religious officials were perhaps less amused. "Her so-called teachings are a nonsensical mixture of Orthodoxy, Catholicism, the occult, Buddhism and political information," said local priest Father Alexei, according to the Telegraph.
Putin, meanwhile, is reportedly mulling a 2012 presidential run, and has proposed creating a "broad political front" in what is said to be an attempt to solidify support within his political party ahead of next year's elections.