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27 Apr, 2019 13:37

Priest helped me find ‘inner harmony’ in jail, says Russian student turned ISIS recruit

Priest helped me find ‘inner harmony’ in jail, says Russian student turned ISIS recruit

Former Moscow university student Varvara Karaulova, who has just been released following her conviction for attempting to join ISIS terrorists in Syria, said an Orthodox Christian priest helped her to find inner harmony in jail.

Karaulova was sentenced to four-and-a-half years behind bars by a court in December 2016, but her lawyer secured a parole release earlier in April.

In a brief interview with RT shortly after she left the prison in the city of Vologda, 460km north of Moscow, Karaulova said that her freedom hasn’t yet sunk in, and that “it’s a lot to grasp” for her. The young woman legally changed her name to Aleksandra Ivanova as her case unfolded, but she now says she can hardly associate herself with the new identity.

Karaulova said that she talked a lot to an Orthodox priest who helped her find “inner harmony” while she was serving her sentence. “Appreciate your loved ones. Appreciate what you have. Even if it seems insignificant, it is significant. But you have to pay a high price to understand this,” she said as she fought back back tears.

Speaking about her plans, Karaulova said that she will first celebrate Orthodox Easter with her family, and that she would “definitely” resume her studies sometime in the future. She said that there is a busy time ahead of her.

Also on rt.com Moscow student sentenced to prison for attempting to join ISIS

Karaulova was granted parole in mid-April as jail authorities said they had no evidence that she adheres to any extremist ideology. “We did not hope for that until the judge announced the verdict,” local ombudsman Oleg Dimoni told RT.

The dramatic story of the former philosophy student hit the headlines in late May 2015 after she went missing in Moscow. In June, she was found on the Turkish-Syrian border with 13 other Russian nationals. Turkish authorities detained her for allegedly attempting to join Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists in Syria.

Also on rt.com ISIS & Al-Qaeda still a threat as jihadist cells spread in Europe, Asia – Moscow

Karaulova insisted that she was heading to Syria to join a pen-pal who promised to marry her. Upon returning to Moscow, she was questioned by police but was not prosecuted. However, by fall of the same year, it became clear that Karaulova had continued her exchange with the same man, who was said to be a professional IS recruiter luring women to marry jihadists in Syria. The court ruled in December 2016 that she had planned another attempt to escape to Syria.

Throughout the hearings, Karaulova maintained she that “was not going to kill” anyone, while explaining that she was obsessed with her “sick love.”

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