The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has suspended a Russian priest who led a memorial service for Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Patriarch Kirill, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, signed a decree banning priest Dmitry Safronov from giving blessings, carrying a cross or wearing the frock for three years.

Safronov, who performed a memorial service at Navalny's grave 40 days after his death, was also demoted and transferred to another church in Moscow, the decree, dated April 15 and published Tuesday, states.

"At the end of the period of penance, on the basis of feedback from the place of obedience, a decision will be made on the possibility of his further priestly service," it said.

The church did not state the reason for its decision.


Navalny, Putin's most strident opponent of the last decade, died in an Arctic prison colony in February, where he was serving a decades-long sentence on "extremism" charges widely seen as retribution for his campaigning against the Kremlin.

The Russian Orthodox Church is a key backer of Putin. It has embraced his promotion of conservative social policies, including a crackdown on the LGBTQ community, and supports the military offensive on Ukraine.

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