Russian riot police have stormed a monastery to detain a rebel monk who has castigated the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox church leadership and denied the existence of the coronavirus.
In the overnight showdown, police clashed with the priest’s supporters at the Sredneuralsk monastery in the Ural mountains.
The monk, Father Sergiy, was quickly flown to Moscow. Authorities charged him with inciting suicidal actions through sermons in which he urged believers to “die for Russia”. He denied the accusations.
When the virus arrived in Russia early this year, the 65-year-old monk denied its existence and denounced government efforts to stem the pandemic as “Satan’s electronic camp”. He has described the vaccines being developed against Covid-19 as part of a global plot to control the masses via chips.
The monk chastised the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, as a “traitor to the motherland” who was serving a Satanic “world government”. He also denounced the head of the Russian Orthodox church, Patriarch Kirill, and other top clerics as “heretics” who must be “thrown out”.
The Russian Orthodox church stripped Father Sergiy of his abbot’s rank for breaking monastic rules in July, but he rejected the ruling and ignored police investigators’ summons. Facing stiff resistance by hundreds of his supporters, church officials and local authorities appeared reluctant to evict him for months.
Hundreds of Father Sergiy’s supporters continued rallying at the monastery hours after he was taken away, with some weeping.
Father Sergiy, who was born as Nikolai Romanov, served as a police officer during Soviet times. After leaving law enforcement, he was convicted of robbery and assault and sentenced to 13 years in prison. He joined a church school after his release and later became a monk.
The charismatic priest quickly became known for his efforts to open new churches and monasteries in the Urals. In his fiery sermons, he denounced alleged plots of the “world government” and glorified Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, who was killed by the Bolsheviks along with his entire family in Ekaterinburg in 1918.