An ultra-conservative Russian priest who denies the existence of the new Coronavirus forcibly took control of a women’s monastery and is now facing a trial for it.
Last Tuesday, the father entered the Sredneuralsk convent, on the outskirts of Yekaterinburg, a city located in the center-west of Russia, causing the mother superior and several nuns to flee.
The ecclesiastical authorities ” they will have to storm the monastery “if they want me to leave it, the father said as armed guards patrol the site.
In fact, the police visited the site on Wednesday although they did not make any arrests.
This controversial cleric was banned preaching in April.
And in May, he was stripped of the right to carry a cross after encouraging his worshipers to disobey the mandate of the health authorities imposed to slow the advance of the Coronavirus.
Father Sergei helped found that convent, that of Sredneuralsk, in the early 2000s, and over the years hundreds of faithful have come to hear his sermons.
Russian authorities closed the churches on April 13 amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and only reopened this month.
On Thursday, Russia confirmed 7,790 new infections, a rate that nevertheless represents the lowest daily increase in six weeks.  The total number of registered cases rises to more than 560,000.
The official death toll stands at more than 7,600, although the most critics fear that the actual number is much higher.
What is happening in the monastery?
Father Sergei declared the current Coronavirus outbreak to be a “pseudo pandemic” and accused church leaders of “working with the ancestors of Antichrist” for closing prayer centers.
After suspend it in May, the Russian Orthodox Church organized or an ecclesiastical court to determine his future.
But at the court session last Monday, Father Sergei told officials that he had a clear conscience and declared that they would have to forcibly remove him from the Sredneuralsk monastery.
It was then that he left the meeting and took control of the site.
Various reports suggest that many of the armed men guarding the convent are now veterans of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The press have no access, although a journalist for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta He managed to avoid the guards and had an encounter with Father Sergei.
“The diocese prohibits me from serving my community, it prohibits me from speaking. But I was lucky to be able to do it, “he told the journalist.
Father Sergei faces another session of the ecclesiastical court on June 26.
The diocese of Yekaterinburg says that Mother Superior Varvara, who directed Since 2005, the convent left temporarily “to avoid unnecessary conflicts.”
He added that before his next court hearing, the cleric should “correct what was done and repent.”
Who is Father Sergei?
Father Sergei is a former police officer who spent 13 years in prison for murder, although his faithful deny that this accusation is true.
He was released at the end of the decade. 1990.
The priest legally changed his name to Nikolai Romanov in honor of Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II.
The former emperor and his family are believed to have been buried outside Yekaterinburg after his assassination in 1918, near the Sredneuralsk Monastery.
Inside the church, Father Sergei is seen as the leader of the dark movement of “devotees of the Tsar.”
In the past he made numerous controversial claims, including the suggestion that the Antichrist would soon he will rise in Russia as a partner of President Vladimir Putin.
He has also criticized laws against domestic violence and anti-Semitic speeches.
Among its faithful are several Russian sports stars and politicians.