* Kremlin wary about attitudes of minorities
* Legislation was submitted after Pussy Riot trial
* Putin had urged caution on legislation
By Steve Gutterman
MOSCOW, Jan 27 The Russian government asked
parliament on Sunday to amend a bill that would set jail terms
for "offending religious feeling" - a measure lawmakers proposed
after last year's Pussy Riot protest at a Moscow cathedral.
In a statement issued on International Holocaust Remembrance
Day, the government suggested existing legislation, if altered,
might suffice to protect faith communities and seemed to
question the need for the bill; critics have said it may harm
Jews, Muslims and others outside the Russian Orthodox Church
that President Vladimir Putin has been anxious not to alienate.
One of the lawmakers who sponsored the bill, which was
backed by Putin's party and allies, said the government's advice
would be heeded. Yaroslav Nilov said a phrase seen to favour the
Russian Orthodox Church would be removed and the legislation
would protect all religions operating legally in Russia.
It was not clear what the next step in parliament would be.
Legislators submitted the bill after three women from the
Pussy Riot punk collective were convicted for a protest last
February inside Christ the Saviour cathedral, in which they
urged the church to stop backing Putin. As proposed, it would
introduce sentences of up to three years for insult to religion
and five years for damage to religious property.
Two members of Pussy Riot are serving two-year prison
sentences for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" after
a trial that drew international criticism.
Putin has harnessed the resurgent church to bolster his
popularity. But he also courts voters from minorities, including
the Muslims of Russia's restive southern fringes, and had urged
parliament not to act hastily on the bill on religious feelings.
(Reporting by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)