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Russian Priest Brutally Murdered on Orthodox Christmas Eve

ICC Note:
Russian Orthodox priests are increasingly becoming a target for thieves and murderers, who take advantage these Christian leaders for their own benefit.

SVM News (01/07/07) – The Orthodox priest Rev. Father Oleg Stupichkin (40 years old) brutally murdered in the Sverdlovsk Region, ltar-Tass in Russia on Saturday night, the 6th of January, the day on which Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas. He was the Church prior of St. Peter and St. Paul Church of Neivo-Shaitanksy in the Alapayevsky district.

The dead body was found after putting out an insignificant fire at the Church. A wound, cut by a heavy article, was found on the priest’s head.

More than 21 icons have been stolen from the church, including icons of the 18th century.

It was established that on Saturday evening, the robbers came to the temple which is now under reconstruction and where no services are conducted, and asked the prior to have a talk with them. The priest did not turn them down and told his wife that he would return in an hour.

When he did not turn up at a fixed time, the wife came to the temple and saw smoke. On murdering the priest, the robbers set fire to benches along the perimeter of the church so as to conceal the traits of the crime. However, the fire did not flare up in flames, since the building was built of brick. SVM News reported.

“Proofs of the suspects’ involvement in the crime have been gathered. A part of stolen icons has been seized from them and the remaining icons have been found at the local cemetery where the robbers hid them,” Valery Gorelykh, the head of the regional police department said. “Probably, the robbers set the church on fire to conceal their crime,” he added.

Several reinforced investigative groups from the prosecutor’s office of the Sverdlovsk Region and the regional police department rushed to the place of the crime. The investigation was also joined by operatives from organized crime division and the homicide squad.

Prosecutor of the Sverdkovsk Region Pavel Kukushkin and chief of the regional police department Mikhail Nikitin took the investigation under their personal control. Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev personally called the region and expressed interest in the progress of investigation.

The murdered priest survived by his wife and four children.