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Covid-19-Denying Priest Seizes Control of Russian Monastery with the Help of Armed Militia

Father Sergei Romanov, a controversial, ultra-conservative Russian priest, has taken control of the Sredneuralsk convent outside the city of Yekaterinburg and challenged authorities to force him out.

Romanov,  a former policeman who reportedly spent 13 years in a prison colony for murder before repenting and dedicating his life to religion, has been very vocal about the social distancing measures taken in Russia in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, accusing church leaders of “working with the forerunners of the Antichrist” by closing churches. Because of his controversial rhetoric, the Russian Orthodox church suspended Romanov and prevented him from preaching, and in May he was forbidden to wear a cross, after he continued to encourage people to disobey public health orders. Last Tuesday, he entered the Sredneuralsk convent, which he helped found in the early 2000’s, and seized control with the help of several armed militiamen.

“I’m not going anywhere… they’ll have to chase me out with police and the National Guard,” Father Sergei Romanov said after being warned to “rectify the situation and repent” by June 26, by the Russian diocese. The ultra-conservative clergyman now has hundreds of supporters, including dozens of armed Cossacks believed to be veterans of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

The Abbess of Sredneuralsk convent left shortly after the arrival of Father Sergei, in order to avoid “unnecessary infighting”, and Romanov told church authorities that they “will have to storm the monastery” if they want him gone.

Father Sergei once changed his secular name to Nikolai Romanov, in honor of Russia’s last Tsar, Nicholas II, and is considered one of the leaders of the shadowy “tsar worshipper” movement within the Russian Orthodox Church. He reportedly accused President Putin of plotting to insert “surveillance chips” in people under guise of a Covid-19 vaccine, and billed the ongoing pandemic a “Satanic, fascist” plot.

With over 500 supporters behind him, Father Sergei Romanov is said to be preparing for a drawn-out siege, and there are those who fear that the situation could turn into a “new Waco”. One thing is for sure though, despite the warnings of the Russian Church, Father Sergei Romanov will not stay silent.

 

“The diocese forbids me to serve, forbids me to speak. But I was blessed to speak,” he told a journalist of Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

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