Russia charges monk with inciting suicidal actions through sermons denying COVID-19
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Russian officials charged a monk on Tuesday for inciting suicidal actions with his sermons in which he encouraged followers to "die for Russia" and allegedly denied the existence of COVID-19. 

Authorities raided the Sredneuralsk monastery outside Yekaterinburg to detain Father Sergiy for encouraging his supporters to “die for Russia” during the pandemic. The monk has denied the allegations, The Associated Press reported

Father Sergiy has spent months denouncing the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church. He was flown to Moscow, where a court supported his arrest. Russia’s investigative agency, the Investigative Committee, reported that the monk will also be charged with allegedly taking control of the monastery. 

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The 65-year-old monk urged his supporters to violate Russia’s coronavirus restrictions, labeling government efforts to curb the virus as “Satan’s electronic camp.” Father Sergiy also promoted the unfounded theory that COVID-19 vaccines were created to control people with chips, according to the AP.

He has called Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinNATO to discuss ways to deter Russia: Lithuanian official Putin says he took experimental nasal COVID-19 vaccine US leads a global release of oil from reserves, but will it outmaneuver OPEC+? MORE a “traitor to the Motherland” and labeled the leaders of the church as “heretics” who must be “thrown out.”

The Russian Orthodox Church removed Father Sergiy’s rank for disobeying rules in July, but the monk refused to appear before investigators.

Father Sergiy then set up camp in the monastery that he previously founded before police captured him after clashing with his supporters who were present. Hundreds of his supporters protested at the monastery after his arrest, with several crying, the AP reported. 

In the Soviet Union, Father Sergiy worked as a police officer. After leaving the force, he was convicted of murder, robbery and assault and sentenced to 13 years in prison. Afterward, he joined a church school and became a monk, AP reported.

Russia has seen more than 3 million COVID-19 cases – the fourth-most of any country in the world behind the U.S., India and Brazil. The nation has also documented 55,107 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.