Page last updated at 12:31 GMT, Friday, 20 November 2009

Russian Orthodox priest shot dead in Moscow church

Parishioners grieve in St Thomas Church, Moscow, Russia, after the priest is shot
Grieving parishioners gathered at the church following the shooting

A masked gunman armed with a pistol has shot dead a Russian Orthodox priest in his Moscow church, police say.

The gunman walked into St Thomas Church in southern Moscow, asked priest Daniil Sysoyev his name and then opened fire, investigators said.

The church's choirmaster was also injured in the attack.

A police spokesman said they believed the gunman had "religious motives". Reports said Father Sysoyev, 35, had received threats via e-mail.

Russian media said he had been involved in missionary activities aimed at encouraging young people to choose the Orthodox Church.

A statement on the website of Father Sysoyev's missionary training centre said he had been threatened by Muslims, AFP reported.

Anatoly Bagmet, a spokesman for the prosecutor general's office, said Father Sysoyev died of his wounds on the way to hospital.

"Investigators are looking at all possible versions, but we are inclined to think that the main motive of the crime was hatred on the basis of religion," Mr Bagmet told the Interfax news agency.

The choirmaster, named as Vladimir Strelbitsky, was treated in hospital but his injuries were not believed life-threatening, officials said.

The dominant Orthodox Church has become an important political force in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But Orthodox bishops have complained that other religious groups have tried to make converts in their territory.

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