A Daily news digest by Jasper van Santen

Russian Church Admits Photo Was Altered to Hide Patriarch’s Watch – NYTimes.com

In Nonsense on April 5, 2012 at 17:35

 

A photograph of Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, meeting Russia's justice minister in 2009, before the image was retouched.

Russian Church Admits Photo Was Altered to Hide Patriarch’s Watch

The Russian Orthodox Church admitted on Thursday to altering an image on its Web site to remove a watch worn by its leader. The alteration was discovered this week by Russian bloggers who suggested that the deleted watch was an expensive timepiece Patriarch Kirill has admitted he owns but claims to never wear.

The editor who removed the watch from the photograph, which showed Patriarch Kirill at a meeting with Russia’s justice minister in 2009, might have gotten away with the ruse if she had noticed that the watch also appeared in a reflection on the highly glossed table at which the church leader was seated. After the clumsiness of the deception was roundly mocked online, the church took the unusual step of apologizing and restoring the original image to its Web site.

A photograph of Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, meeting Russia’s justice minister in 2009, before the image was retouched. “One of the basic principles of our work is the fundamental rejection of the use of photo editing programs to alter images,” a church statement said. “A gross violation of our internal ethics has occurred and it will be thoroughly investigated.” The church also promised, “The guilty will be severely punished.”

The Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that the deputy head of the patriarch’s press service, Alexander Volkov, said the alteration had been made by a 24-year-old female employee “on her own personal inexperienced initiative.” Mr. Volkov added: “Unfortunately, this person showed pointless personal initiative without getting an approval from her supervisors. Clearly, this is a folly, a misunderstanding; of course, we don’t want to conceal anything. There is nothing to be ashamed of, we don’t study every photograph in search of anything that might seem weird to our compatriots.”

The embarrassing discovery further stoked anger over the church and its often lavish displays of wealth and power. It also struck yet another blow to the moral authority of Russian officialdom, which has been dwindling rapidly in light of recent scandals involving police abuse, electoral fraud and blatant corruption.

In 2009, a Ukrainian news site claimed to have caught a glimpse of Patriarch Kirill’s watch.

Russian bloggers have expressed particular outrage about the patriarch’s watch, rumored to be a Breguet time piece worth tens of thousands of dollars. It was first sighted on the wrist of the patriarch in 2009 on a visit to Ukraine, where he held forth in a televised interview on the importance of asceticism. At the time, a Ukrainian news site, V.I.P. Glavred, published a close-up photograph of the watch apparently poking out from beneath the patriarch’s vestments. The site also identified the watch as a Breguet Réveil du Tsar model, which retails for about $30,000.

 

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