Investigative Committee to probe claims of child abuse at Russian monastery

Moscow, October 21, Interfax – Russia’s Investigative Committee has launched a probe in the wake of media reports of child abuse at the Svyato-Bogolyubovsky Monastery in Vladimir Region.

“All media claims about child abuse at the monastery will be checked and assessed, which will be followed by a procedural decision,” Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told Interfax on Thursday.

The pre-investigation check will be conducted by Vladimir regional investigators.

It was reported on October 20 that the Prosecutor General’s Office would look into the claims.

“We will certainly respond to all of the legal violations reported by the media. Doubtlessly, we will investigate the claims reported by the Izvestia newspaper,” spokeswoman Marina Gridneva told Interfax on Wednesday.

The Izvestia daily reported on Wednesday, citing the mother of an allegedly abused girl, that children were frequently heard crying and their arms and legs were covered in bruises after being beaten.

Children were forced to bow up to 500 times as a form of punishment and worked in the fields from morning till night, the newspaper reported.

One girl, named Marina Loyko, claimed that she was forced to eat a cupful of salt, was beaten with a belt and was deprived of food and sleep for misbehaving, Izvestia reported.

A request has been made to the local authorities to transfer the children to a boarding school in the nearby town of Suzdal.

The Russian Public Chamber told Interfax earlier that it would look into the allegations.

An independent inquiry will also be conducted by the office of Pavel Astakhov, the Kremlin’s children’s rights commissioner.

The monastery itself has dismissed the reports.

“Officially, the orphanage of the Svyato-Bogolyubsky Monastery has long been closed, there are no children on its grounds, and reports about cruel treatment of orphans are a lie and slander,” nun Antonia (Davidkovskaya) said on Ekho Moskvy radio.

“Someone needed to spark a scandal to recall last year’s events,” she said.

“Even though everything was proven and several commissions checked that no measures were used against the children, and there were no cruelties against the minors. It is simply someone working against the monastery and the Orthodox Church in general,” she said.

“Almost all children left the monastery last year and the order to shut down the orphanage was received this year,” the nun said.

It was reported on Wednesday that two orphans escaped from the monastery.

Father Vitaly Rysev, head of the Suzdal District of the Vladimir Diocese, believes children are still living at the monastery.

“Then who made the escape on October 3? There were three orphans from the 11th grade left, and two of them escaped from this orphanage on October 3 this year to a police station, gave all the evidence, all this was recorded, then they were transferred by custody agencies to our school. So there were at least three orphans on October 3,” he told Interfax-Religion.

“Legally, there has never been any orphanage in Bogolyubovo, even though one existed” and “over the eleven-year period of its work more than 40 children escaped from there, but it was never registered legally, it operated with full connivance of custody officials from the diocese’s education department, with not a single licensing document,” he claimed.

“So if you bring the logic of nun Antonia to conclusion, there was never any orphanage, but in reality it did exist and was a cause of big woes and tragedies, and that is now a subject of investigation by law enforcement agencies,” the priest said.