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Sergius, whose real name is Nikolai Romanov, was banned from preaching on April 27 after he told Russians to visit churches and violate the country’s strict self-isolation rules. Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, churches in Russia were ordered to close for the safety of parishioners. The cleric also called the coronavirus a “pseudo-pandemic.”
Ignoring the ban, Sergius continued to perform his duties at the Sredneuralsk Convent, located near the Ural city of Yekaterinburg. In May, the local diocese defrocked him, and he was excommunicated by the ecclesiastical court in September.
Aside from his views on Covid-19, Sergius is known for using anti-Semitic language in his sermons. A former police officer, he previously spent 13 years in prison for murder, and was once the personal confessor of Russian MP Natalia Poklonskaya, who became a household name during the 2014 Crimea crisis.
In September, another religious leader, named Sergey Torop, was arrested on suspicion of using psychological violence to extract income from his followers. Torop, who calls himself ‘Vissarion’ and is known as ‘the Siberian Messiah’, founded a cult named the Church of the Last Testament in the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk in 1991. During the police raid, Russian law authorities found weapons, cash, jewellery and adult toys among his possessions.
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