Russian pro-Navalny priest flees for safety concerns


Eastern Europe


Georgi Sukhoboky. Photo Facebook

A Russian Orthodox priest fled Russia out of concern for his safety. On Tuesday, he said that he moved to Poland last month, The Moscow Times writes.

“When the Putin regime falls, I plan to return and continue to serve as a priest”, the priest, named Georgi Sukhoboky, told the Mozhem Obyasnit Telegram channel.

Earlier Sukhoboky, received several threatening letters after his bishop dismissed him for supporting Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. In November, Sukhoboky wrote in a Facebook post that he was ready to shake hands with Navalny to congratulate him for receiving the European Union’s Sakharov Prize for human rights.

His bishop scolded him, whereafter the conflict escalated, The Moscow Times reports. Sukhoboky used social media to criticise the bishop that dismissed him. As a result, he was sent to a monastery for six months.

At the time of the incident, Sukhoboky said in an interview with Ideal Real that the Church has to follow the line of the ruling Communist Party. “If Aleksei Navalny is not held in high esteem there, it means that the Church should not keep him in high esteem either. That is very bad, even from a Christian point of view”, he argued. Sukhoboky added that it is valuable to him when a person not only says what he thinks but is also ready to suffer for his convictions. “I cannot but respect his (Navalny’s, ed.) position, and I am even ready to shake hands. But the Church cannot recognise this position because they will lose support from the state.”

After being threatened in response to his posts on social media, Sukhoboky decided to flee to Poland. His departure follows a year of crackdowns on Navalny and his supporters. Authorities have been jailing many supporters of Putin’s opponent.

In reaction to Sukhoboky's flight, the Russian Orthodox Church says that his decision is a confirmation that earlier disciplinary measures against the priest were justified, Ria reports. According to Moscow, the priest was not as innocent as he might present himself. “A person who gets involved in a political struggle, should not be in holy orders, because priestly service excludes statements like Skhoboky's”, Vakhtang Kipshidze, spokesman of the Church, emphasized. He added that if priests are held in Russia “neither by responsibility to their flock, nor by the desire to be a mentor and father for her, one can only regret their future fate.”


Navalny is currently serving a 2.5-year prison sentence in a penal colony. He was charged with violating the conditions of his previous sentence of 2014. The Russian judge ruled that Navalny had skipped check-in with Russia’s prison service while recovering from poisoning in Germany in 2019. Navalny blames Kremlin for his hospitalisation.

Alexei Navalny is the most important critic of the Russian president Vladimir Putin. In 2011, he blamed the Russian government for electoral fraud and called his fellow citizens to unite against Putin. Since then, he has been actively turning against the Russian regime.



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