On December 15, Russian-born Orthodox priest Kanstantsin Burykin, who was sentenced to three years in prison for possession of weapons and ammunition, has started a hunger strike.
The man is serving his term in Shklou penal colony. He demands a meeting with his lawyer and representatives of the Russian Embassy.
In his address to the Belarusian leader, Burykin said that on October 14, he had initiated proceedings on his being deprived of residence permit in Belarus. As soon as the priest walks free, he well be deported to Russia.
The Burykin family made a video appeal to Alyaksandr Lukashenka asking him to ‘give their father back’.
In November 2016, Orthodox priest Burykin, who never got theological education but headed a church in the village of Hatava near Minsk, was arrested by the Belarusian Investigative Committee for illegal actions with regard to ammunition (Art.295-2 of the Criminal Code). Part 3 of the same article (repeated illegal actions with regard to ammunition, or collusive actions committed by a group of persons) was added to the charges.
According to the defendant, the weapons found by law enforcement officers at his home were presented to him by activists of the neo-Nazi group Russian National Unity (RNE). The priest was a spiritual mentor of the group.
Burykin claims he regularly reported the details of his cooperation with Russian radicals to Metropolitan Filaret, the then head Orthodox Church in Belarus. When asked by whether he knew about the RNE ideology, Burykin said that in the beginning he did not see anything wrong in their activities, but after that the group became destructive, he suspended their contacts.
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During a search in Burykin’s flat, policemen found, inter alia, the Third Reich military newsfilms and extremist materials. Moreover, it emerged that there was a chandelier in the shape of swastika and a picture Burykin painted in the style of the Third Reich. However, he was not accused of inciting ethnic hatred.