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26 Sep, 2019 14:39

Priest with '70 adopted children in family’ is accused of raping girl in his care, denied bail

Priest with '70 adopted children in family’ is accused of raping girl in his care, denied bail

A Russian priest who is credited with heading the largest family in the country after fathering and adopting over 70 kids, has been arrested on a charge of sexually abusing his dependants.

A court in Orenburg, a city about 1,200 km southeast of Moscow, has ordered the pre-trial arrest of Nikolay Stremsky.

Stremsky, or father Nikolay as he is usually called, is a sort of local celebrity in the Orenburg region.

A veteran of the Afghan war who was ordained a Russian Orthodox priest, he and his wife run a Christian foster home, except the wards there are also his adopted children. Investigators say he is a sexual predator, who has abused at least seven children in his care.

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Stremsky runs a center called the Holy Trinity Convent, a church-owned facility that includes a shelter for elderly people, a foster home for children, a Sunday school and a small monastery, among other things. The priest has worked there since the 1990s and is credited for legally adopting and raising as many as 70 children, making his family the largest in Russia. Its website says that, of the adopted children 58 have grown and left while 12 remain in the family.

The court session that decided whether he could be held under house arrest or in pre-trial detention was heard behind closed doors so few details about the case are known so far.

The charges against him include the alleged rape of a girl under the age of 14, and molestation of a minor by an organized group, the record said. Stremsky denies any wrongdoing. The justice agreed with the prosecution that Stremsky, a wealthy man with numerous properties in Russia and other countries, is a flight risk and ordered the court to lock him up until at least mid-November.

One of his adopted daughters, now an adult, and her husband have been arrested by the same court. They are accused of unlawful detention.

The Bishop of Orenburg suspended Stremsky from conducting his church duties pending the results of the investigation.

Vladimir Legoyda, spokesman for the Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, called on people to keep the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ principle in mind when commenting on the case.

“Only a court can judge if a person is guilty or not, so I believe we should all refrain from emotional and uncalled-for remarks and let the investigators to do their job,” he cautioned.

It’s not Stremsky’s first brush with the law, although the previous one was far less serious. In 2015, he was detained for allegedly driving one of his luxury cars while inebriated, but the case was ultimately dropped. His detention during that episode was pretty rough, according to footage which circulated around the internet at the time.

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