MOSCOW – A priest of the Russian Orthodox Church has been formally charged with recruiting women in Belarus and trafficking them to work as prostitutes in Russia, the Belarusian Investigative Committee announced on Friday.
The clergyman, identified as Nikolay Kireev, 39, was arrested on Aug. 3 in the northern Belarusian city of Vitebsk when he was about to board a bus to St. Petersburg accompanied by two women, aged 20 and 30.
According to a statement by the IC, police found that Kireev had allegedly persuaded the women, both of whom were Vitebsk residents, to move to St. Petersburg and work in the sex trade there.
The cleric, who served at the Peter and Pavel Cathedral in Imeni Morozova – a settlement on the banks of Lake Ladoga, near the Finnish border –, was put in pre-trial detention.
As soon as news of his arrest broke, the deputy chief of the Russian Orthodox Church’s communications department, Vakhtang Kipshidze, announced the suspension of Kireev’s priestly duties until his legal situation had been clarified.