On Tuesday, December 29, 2020, Russian riot police stormed into a monastery to detain Fr Sergei who has castigated the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church leadership and denied the existence of the coronavirus.
Fr Sergei was transferred to Moscow, about 1,400 kilometers from the monastery, where the court ordered his detention for two months.
Videos that have been posted online show Russian riot police and many faithful gathered outside the monastery. “They chased us, took all the children out, they did not let us get warm clothes,” stated a nun to E1. “They laid the priest face down on the floor and hit him with a baton,” she added.
Fr Sergei, known as Nikolai Romanov, became known in Russia for denying the existence of the new coronavirus, for inciting mobilizations against the closure of the temples due to the pandemic and for criticizing the Russian Orthodox Church. He took over the Sredneuralsk monastery in Yekaterinburg in June and refused to leave. The Russian Orthodox Church stripped Fr Sergei of his abbot’s rank in September because he ignored the ban on officiating ecclesiastical services and preaching. Nevertheless, many were those who remained by his side.
During his transfer to Moscow, his supporters gathered outside the courthouse, holding pictures and shouting: “Father Sergei, we are with you.”
The former priest will be tried on charges of inciting suicide, violating the right to freedom of conscience and fostering illegal activities. According to his lawyer, Fr Sergei denied all the accusations.
The Investigative Committee accused him of urging at least 10 nuns to end their lives and posted his sermon on the internet. Fr Sergei had previously been sentenced to 13 years in prison for murder and robbery but was released in the 1990s.
A spokesman of the Russian Orthodox Church wrote in the Telegram: “It is a pity that Sergei and his supporters did not heed the repeated calls of the Russian Church to repent.”