THE Russian Orthodox Church has disclaimed responsibility for two Orthodox churches shown in a YouTube video as being part of a secret palace complex under completion on the country’s Black Sea coast, allegedly for President Putin.
“These temples do not belong to our diocese, and no priest has been appointed to run them,” a spokesman for the Novorossiysk eparchy was quoted by the Orthodox Times news agency. “We were completely unaware of their existence, to which saints they were dedicated, or whether it was possible to conduct services in them.”
The unnamed Orthodox official was commenting on the video, released on 19 January by the opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, detailing the complex, said to have cost 100 billion roubles (£960 million) at Cape Idokopas, in the Krasnodar region of Russia.
The two-hour film, watched by 100 million viewers by the end of January, shows a large green-tiled church, complete with a 100-foot cupola, close to the palace in landscaped gardens, with a smaller church adjoining a specially planted vineyard, which was said by Mr Navalny to have been dismantled and shipped from Greece.
No mention is made of either building, however, located in the Orthodox Gelendzhik deanery, on the website of the Novorossiysk eparchy, which is currently building a new cathedral to serve its 101 parishes.
Alexei Navalny/YouTube The film shows a large green-tiled church, complete with a 100-footcupola, in landscaped gardens, with a smaller church adjoining aspecially planted vineyard. The complex is said to include anunderground ice-rink, hockey pitch, and swimming pool, as well as an arboretum and orangeria, helipad, and amphitheatre
Speaking to students at an online meeting last week, President Putin denied that the complex belonged to him or his family members, while a Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, told the Interfax agency that it was now the property of “certain entrepreneurs”.
The YouTube video includes design plans for the complex, as well as bank and investment documents, and shows luxury features of the Italianate palace of 194,000 square feet, first begun 15 years ago, and including a theatre, casino, and strip club.
It says that the whole seaside complex, surrounded by high-security fences, includes an underground ice-rink, hockey pitch, and swimming pool, as well as an arboretum and orangeria, helipad, and amphitheatre.
Mr Navalny was arrested on 17 January after returning from treatment in Germany for a near-fatal August nerve-agent attack (Comment, 29 January), and was imprisoned on Tuesday for three-and-a-half years for violating his probation.
Russian security forces, using batons and tasers, detained more than 5700 people, including at least 80 journalists, on Sunday, during a second weekend of mass protests in Moscow and other cities against the campaigner’s arrest.
The Russian Orthodox Church’s foreign-relations director, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, criticised the protests in a Sunday interview with the Rossiya-24 television channel, comparing the situation to pre-1917 Russia, when “all sorts of propagandists” were active.
“We know what the revolution led to; a state must develop in an evolutionary, not revolutionary, manner,” the Metropolitan said.
“Luring children and adolescents into political actions is a totally unacceptable violation of civil law and order, and I think those responsible must be held to account.”
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow was shown on state TV on Monday accepting a bouquet of white roses from President Putin to mark the 12th anniversary of his enthronement.