Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's internal and external security depends upon two things - its traditional religions and its nuclear forces - writes Sophia Kishkovsky from Moscow for Ecumenical News International (ENI).
"These themes are closely connected because both the traditional faiths of the Russian Federation and Russia's nuclear shield are two things that strengthen Russian statehood and create the necessary conditions for ensuring the country's internal and external security," Putin said at a media conference.
"And it is therefore possible to arrive at a clear conclusion as to what the state's attitude should be towards these two areas, both today and in the future," he added.
The president was asked about his opinion concerning the role of the Russian Orthodox Church and the future strategy for the military and nuclear sectors.
The media conference question came from a journalist from Sarov, a town famous both for its nuclear weapons research centre, and as the monastic home of 19th-century Saint Seraphim of Sarov, revered in the Russian Orthodox Church as a symbol of peace and humility.
At festivities in Sarov in 2003 to mark the 100th anniversary of Saint Seraphim's canonisation as a saint, Putin attended services led by Patriarch Alexei II of the Russian Orthodox Church, and visited the nuclear centre.
The Russian Orthodox Church has noted its increasingly close relationship with the Russian military, including the Strategic Rocket Forces, which have been reported to control 503 operational missile systems of four types that can carry 1853 nuclear warheads.
In December, the Patriarch's press service website, www.patriarhia.ru, reported on Alexei's sermon at the church of the Strategic Rocket Forces command centre, to mark the feast day of the early church martyr Saint Barbara who is regarded as the forces' patron saint.
"Through the prayers of Saint Barbara, the Lord protects us and our great Fatherland (and, we have faith, will continue to protect us) in peace, accord and the love of Christ," said the Patriarch. "Saint Barbara is likewise the Heavenly Protectress of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, which were created on 17 December 1959. These forces are the shield of our Fatherland."
[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]