MOSCOW — A new Russian religious sect worships Vladimir Putin as the reincarnation of Paul the Apostle whose career follows in the footsteps of the early Christian missionary, a news report said Wednesday.
The sect is based near the Volga River city of Nizhny Novgorod and led by Morther Fotina -- a former convict who once worked on the local rail road, the Sobesednik weekly said on its website.
"According to the Bible, Paul the Apostle was a military commander at first," the sect's founder told the weekly.
"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," she said.
The weekly did not say how many members the sect included, but featured an interview with the prime minister's spokesman in which he expressed surprise at the cult of personality building around Russia's most popular politician.
"This is the first I've heard of such a religious group," Dmitry Peskov told Sobesednik.
"It is impressive that they think so highly of the prime minister's work," Peskov added.
"But I would like to recall another of the main commandments: thou shalt not worship false idols," Peskov said.
Various Russian groups and organisations periodically come out with signs of their appreciation for Putin, a former president and spy who is mulling a return to the Kremlin next year.
Putin has been made the hero of pop songs and brands of vodka and even night club parties, with Peskov gently noting on those occasions that Russia's effective leader was not particularly amused.
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