Riot police in Russia have arrested a renegade priest in a raid on a convent in the Urals region.
Father Sergiy, whose real name is Nikolai Romanov, gained notoriety earlier this year after denying the existence of the Covid-19 pandemic, railing against church closures during the lockdown and criticising the Russian Orthodox Church.
He seized control of the Sredneuralsky women’s monastery near Yekaterinburg in the Urals in June and refused to leave.
Known for wearing long dark robes, Sergiy was formally cast out of the church in September for openly ignoring a ban on him holding services and preaching.
Footage posted online showed a melee of riot police and people shouting outside the convent during the raid.
His lawyer confirmed his detention and said Sergiy had been charged with encouraging minors to kill themselves, the Kommersant newspaper reported.
The case against him may relate to a YouTube video in which he called on his followers to die for Russia.
The police and local authorities have not yet commented on the raid.
A Russian Orthodox Church spokesman, Vladimir Legoida, wrote on Telegram: “It’s a pity that … Sergiy and his supporters did not heed the repeated calls of the church to repent and amend (their ways).”