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Opposition groups and some Russian Orthodox believers have voiced concern about the church’s closeness to the state in a debate fueled by the two-year prison terms given last month to three members of the Pussy Riot punk band who protested in a Moscow cathedral.

Patriarch Kirill, who has called Putin’s long rule a “miracle of God,” did not name the president or Pussy Riot in a speech to students Friday, but he underlined the importance of cooperation between the church and state and criticized calls for a totally secular state.

“The institution of power appeared in the world, in a society prone to sin, to safeguard this society so that people could live together,” the patriarch said in a speech at Moscow State University.

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