Russia: Covid-denying rebel monk jailed for encouraging suicides

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A rebellious Russian monk who lambasted the Kremlin and denied the existence of the coronavirus has been found guilty of encouraging suicides and sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

The monk, Father Sergiy, was arrested in December 2020 for inciting suicidal acts through sermons in which he urged believers to “die for Russia”, violating freedom of conscience and making arbitrary gestures. He rejected the charges and his lawyers said they would appeal Tuesday’s decision of the Izmailovo District Court in Moscow.

Sergiy responded to the verdict with a biblical “do not judge and you will not be judged”.

When the coronavirus pandemic began, the 66-year-old monk denied its existence and denounced government efforts to stem the pandemic as “Satan’s electronic camp”. He broadcast long debunked conspiracy theories about Covid-19 and described the coronavirus vaccines under development against the virus as part of an alleged global conspiracy to control the masses via microchips.

The monk urged his followers to disobey the government’s lockdown measures. He took refuge in a monastery near Yekaterinburg he founded, and dozens of beefy volunteers, including veterans of the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine, helped enforce its rules while the prioress and several nuns were leaving.

The monk rebuked President Vladimir Putin as a “traitor to the Fatherland” who served a satanic “world government” and denounced the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, and other high-ranking clerics as “Heretics” who must be “expelled”. ”.

The Russian Orthodox Church stripped Sergiy of his abbot for breaking monastic rules and then excommunicated him, but he rejected the rulings and ignored summons from police investigators. Faced with stiff resistance from hundreds of his supporters, church officials and local authorities seemed reluctant to expel him for months.

Sergiy, who was born Nikolai Romanov, served as a police officer in Soviet times. After leaving the ranks of law enforcement, he was convicted of murder, theft and assault and sentenced to 13 years in prison. He joined a religious school after his release and later became a monk.

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