Russian priest who led Alexei Navalny’s memorial service mysteriously suspended by Moscow church

Russian priest who led Alexei Navalny’s memorial service mysteriously suspended by Moscow church

A Russian priest who led the memorial service for the late opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been suspended for three years.

Dmitry Safronov, the Orthodox priest who presided over the service on 26 March, has been suspended from clerical duties by the Moscow Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church without specifying a reason, Reuters reported.

Navalny, Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic, died in an Arctic penal colony in February. He was 47.

Navalny’s supporters claimed that he was murdered, an allegation denied by the Kremlin.

“Priest Dimitri Safronov, a cleric of the Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin on Lyschikova Hill in Moscow, is released from the duty of obedience, is prohibited from the priesthood for a period of three years without the right to give a blessing, wear a cassock and a priestly cross and is sent for three years to the church of St Pimen the Great in New Collars in Moscow to perform the duties of a psalmist and fulfil those assignments which the abbot will determine for him,” a statement signed by the Russian Orthodox Church’s head Patriarch Kirill and published on its website read, according to Haberler.

“At the end of the period of penance, based on feedback from the place of obedience, a decision will be made on the possibility of his further priestly service.”

More details about the priest were not immediately available.

Navalny died while he was serving a 19-year prison sentence on extremism charges that he had denounced as politically motivated. He was jailed after returning from Germany in January 2021 where he was recuperating from a 2020 nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.

Navalny’s memoir, which he started writing in 2020, is slated for publication in October. Titled Patriot and published by Alfred A Knopf, it has been described as the opposition leader’s “final letter to the world”.

Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, said in a statement released early this month by the publisher: “This book is a testament not only to Alexei’s life but to his unwavering commitment to the fight against dictatorship – a fight he gave everything for, including his life.”

Additional reporting with agencies