Priest accused of discrediting Russian army lambasts attempts to demolish his church

A priest in Slavyansk-on-Kuban in southern Russia’s Krasnodar region has condemned attempts by the municipal authorities to demolish his church in a statement posted on his parish website.

Local officials apparently petitioned the city court for permission to demolish the church in April, arguing it had been built illegally on land allocated for housing and that it was a crime scene, referring to Archbishop Viktor Pivovarov’s anti-war sermons and articles, and even citing an interview he gave to Novaya Gazeta Europe as evidence.

Pivovarov, who has repeatedly criticised the war in Ukraine in his sermons and called Vladimir Putin’s ideology “delusional” and “imposed by the devil”, rejected the accusations made by the authorities, calling them “ridiculous and godless”.

Pivovarov was first fined for “discrediting” the Russian military in March 2023 after a sermon he gave was reported to the police, which led to Pivovarov’s living quarters being searched and ransacked. In April, the 87-year old Pivovarov was fined 150,000 rubles (€1,550) for “repeatedly discrediting” the Russian military.

Pivovarov is an archbishop in the Slavic and Southern Russian True Orthodox Church, a schismatic offshoot of the Russian Orthodox Church. The court is yet to make a final decision on the demolition of the church.

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