"We apologize to all the users of the website for the technical mistake," it said. "One of the basic principles of our work is the fundamental rejection of the use of photo editing programs to alter images."
The Church issued a statement on Tuesday saying it was under attack from "anti-Russian forces" that wanted to erode its authority because of its backing for Putin, whose 12-year rule of Russia as prime minister and president was described by the patriarch as a miracle of God.
"They have completely lost their minds in the Russian Orthodox Church," wrote blogger Vadim Petrichenko, a blogger who posted the doctored photo on his Facebook page on Wednesday, according to The Telegraph.
Bloggers have since then stepped up accusations that Kirill leads an opulent lifestyle that is unbecoming of his status as head of the Church, and pro-opposition media outlets have questioned an alleged role in dealings around duty-free alcohol and tobacco imports in the 1990s.
A journalist who met Kirill to discuss the allegations told Vesti FM radio that the Patriarch had acknowledged receiving a luxury watch as a gift but that he had not worn it. Kirill was quoted as saying photos of him wearing it were a "collage."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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