MOSCOW — Russian weapons constructor Mikhail Kalashnikov worried about whether he was responsible for the deaths caused by the namesake rifle he invented, according to a news report Monday.
Writing in April, eight months before he died, Kalashnikov told the head of the Russian Orthodox Church that he suffered "unbearable heartache" over the question of his guilt.
"Am I, an Orthodox Christian, responsible for the death of people, albeit the enemy?" he wrote in a letter to Patriarch Kirill that was reproduced in the newspaper Izvestia.
Kirill's spokesman Alexander Volkov told the newspaper that the patriarch had replied to Kalashnikov's letter by saying that he was "a shining example for patriotism."
Volkov explained that the Church approves of weapons that serve the defense of the fatherland: "He invented this rifle for the defense of his country and not for the use of terrorists from Saudi Arabia," Volkov was quoted as saying.
The Russian Church keeps close ties to the military. Its priests regularly bless new weapons and include servicemen in their prayers.
Kalashnikov died on December 23, aged 94. He designed the famous AK-47 in 1947 as an ultra-reliable and simple weapon suited for partisans.
The Kalashnikov became the world's most-used assault rifle, exported by Russian factories, but also copied worldwide by gunsmiths with relatively basic technology. It was the weapon of choice for rebels and regular armies in many conflicts.