A monk who described coronavirus restrictions as “Satan’s electronic camp” and urged followers to break lockdown has been arrested after Russian riot police raided his mountain monastery hideout.
Russian riot police stormed a monastery on Tuesday to arrest a rebel monk who has criticized the Kremlin and denied the existence of coronavirus.
Supporters of Father Sergiy clashed with police overnight at the Sredneuralsk monastery outside Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains.
The monk was flown to Moscow, where a court was ready to approve his arrest. Authorities charged him with inciting suicidal action with his sermons, in which he urged followers to “die for Russia.”
The 65-year-old monk denied the existence of coronavirus earlier in the year when the virus first arrived in Russia. He denounced government efforts to control the pandemic as “Satan’s electronic camp.” He also described the vaccines being developed against COVID-19 as part of a global plot to control the world’s population with electronic chips.
Several people were left injured after the overnight clash that led to Sergiy’s detention.
Father Sergiy, facing opposition for his inflammatory views, holed up in the monastery he founded in the mountains several months ago. He urged his followers to disobey the government’s rules and lockdowns.
He also described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “traitor to the Motherland” serving a Satanic “world government” and denounced Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill as a “heretic” who must be “thrown out.”
Sergiy had already been stripped of his abbot’s rank in July. He rejected the church’s ruling and also ignored police investigators’ summons.
The hundreds of supporters near Yekaterinburg included veterans of Russia’s conflict in eastern Ukraine who offered protection for the monk.
Sergiy, born Nikolai Romanov, served as a police officer in Soviet Russia and spent 13 years in prison for theft before becoming a monk. Father Sergiy became well known in the Urals for his explosive sermons denouncing the “world government” and glorifying Russia’s last czar, Nicholas II, with whom he shares a name. Russia’s last czar was killed with his family in Yekaterinburg in 1918.