Ultraconservative Russian Priest Arrested Amid Convent Raid

By RFE/RL's Russian Service

An ultraconservative, coronavirus-denying Russian priest who was stripped of his religious rank has been arrested in a police raid on a convent that turned violent.

Father Sergiy’s lawyer said his client was arrested overnight and charged with encouraging minors to commit suicide.

Local media reports said that during the raid, parishioners and some clergy skirmished with police. Three nuns were injured in the clashes, according to TASS.

The rogue priest has been sent to Moscow where a court is to rule on his pretrial detention.

The case against him reportedly stems from a YouTube video in which he called on his followers to "die for Russia."

Police and local authorities have not publicly commented on the arrest.

Media outlet Znak.com posted a video apparently showing riot police storming the Sredneuralsk Women’s Monastery in the Urals.

Farther Sergiy, aka Nikolai Romanov, made headlines in June after he took over the monastery by force with help from Cossack guards.

He was later stripped of his religious rank by the Diocesan Court in the Sverdlovsk region for what the court called disobedience toward Russian Orthodox Church authorities.

Father Sergiy is known for his public praising of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, for calling the coronavirus pandemic a Western plot, and for publicly condemning the Russian Orthodox Church's order in April to stop church services to prevent the spreading of the virus.

After forcibly taking over the convent, Father Sergiy issued political statements saying that constitutional amendments offered by President Vladimir Putin "would legalize a slave-owning system."

The constitutional changes approved earlier this year allow Putin, who has ruled Russia as president or prime minister for more than 20 years, to stay in power until 2036 if he chooses to run again after his current term ends in 2024.

With reporting by Interfax