By Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - A Russian court has fined an influential priest for publicly denying the existence of the new coronavirus and urging his followers to ignore government ordered lockdowns.
A court in Verkhnyaya Pyshma in the Ural Mountains region found “Father Sergiy,” 65, guilty of “inciting hatred” in sermons.
It ruled that the Russian Orthodox priest, who didn’t attend this week’s hearing, should pay a fine of 18,000 rubles (about $250).
Trial observers said the relatively small fine reflects authorities’ indecision on how to respond to the challenge from the widely popular priest.
He has defied the Kremlin’s lockdown orders and taken control of a convent in the Urals.
The Russian Orthodox Church leadership, which has close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, banned the priest from ministry in April.
But he has continued preaching and last month took charge of the convent outside Yekaterinburg that he had founded years ago.
Dozens of burly volunteers, including veterans of the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine, helped enforce his rules, while the prioress and several nuns have left.
Priest Sergiy told followers that the coronavirus was non-existent and called government efforts to halt the pandemic “Satan’s electronic camp.”
He described vaccines being developed against COVID-19 part of a global plot to control the masses via chips.