Russian court dismisses petition to demolish church over archbishop’s anti-war sermons

A court in southern Russia has refused to authorise the demolition of an independent Orthodox church whose archbishop has repeatedly condemned Russia’s “satanic” invasion of Ukraine, independent media outlet 7x7 reported on Tuesday.

Government officials in the city of Slavyansk-on-Kuban in the Krasnodar region requested that the church be destroyed, claiming that the Holy Intercession and Tikhon Church was “a crime scene” due to archbishop Viktor Pivovarov’s anti-war sermons and articles. The court even cited an interview the archbishop gave to Novaya Gazeta Europe as evidence in the legal proceedings.

Archbishop Viktor Pivovarov. Photo: Novaya Gazeta Europe

Archbishop Viktor Pivovarov. Photo: Novaya Gazeta Europe

Officials claimed the church had been illegally constructed on a plot of land allocated for private housing developments. However, the court established that the church’s construction had been authorised, the court’s press service said.

Pivovarov, 87, has repeatedly criticised the war in Ukraine, calling Putin’s invasion “satanic,” “delusional” and "imposed by the devil”. He was fined twice for “discrediting the Russian army” and had his parish raided by the police in October.

Despite the fines Pivovarov has received, he remains an archbishop and continues to give sermons, dismissing the accusations made by the authorities against his church as “ridiculous and godless”.

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