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Russian Orthodox Church red-faced over Patriarch Kirill's Swiss watch

The Russian Orthodox Church in seeking to avoid a scandal has created one by airbrushing a $30,000 watch from the wrist of Patriarch Kirill I in an official photograph.
Russian Orthodox Church Head Patriarch KirillEnlarge
(L-R) Russian Orthodox Church Head Patriarch Kirill, parliament upper house speaker Valentina Matviyevko, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and newly elected parliament lower house speaker Sergei Naryshkin of United Russia, prepare to listen President Dmitry Medvedev's annual state of the nation address in the Moscow Kremlin, on December 22, 2011. (ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AFP/Getty Images)

The Russian Orthodox Church in seeking to avoid a scandal has created one by airbrushing a $30,000 watch from the wrist of Patriarch Kirill I
in an official photograph.

In what it described as a "blunder," the church admitted that an official photograph of the leader of Russia's Orthodox Christians on the church's website was doctored to show him without the Swiss-made Breguet timepiece, The New York Times reported.

The patriarch had been meeting with Russia's Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov, and when journalists brought attention to the watch, the patriarch insisted he only wore a cheap watch given to him by outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

He said any pictures of him wearing the Breguet must have been faked.

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However, according to the Times, Russian bloggers noticed the timepiece's reflection in the 2009 picture -- the doctored version of which appeared this month -- forcing the church to apologize. It also restored the original photo to the site.

In a statement the Patriarch's press service said the manipulation would be investigated and "the guilty ones will be punished severely," according to the website of the Shia International News Association.

"We reject on principle any use of photo editing software to alter the appearance of images," the statement said.

"There will be a thorough investigation to determine why in this instance there was a crude violation of our internal ethical code. The guilty ones will be punished severely."

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