Voices from Russia

Friday, 20 November 2009

More Detail on the Murder of Fr Daniil Sysoev

Fr Daniil Sysoev (1974-2009), well-known Orthodox missionary, murdered by an unknown perp in Moscow last night.

Official sources in the MP called the murder of Fr Daniil Sysoev in the early hours of Friday a ghastly tragedy. “Firstly, I would like to express condolences to the family and friends of Fr Daniil, especially, to his wife and three daughters” Vladimir Legoida, the head of the MP Synodal Information Department, told our Interfax-Religion correspondent. “This is a ghastly tragedy and, as any murder is a violation of the commandments, it is a very great sin”, he said. He went on to add that Fr Daniil was a prominent priest, active in the educational field. “All believers should pray for the soul of Fr Daniil, Mr Legoida concluded.

The keen missionary work of Fr Daniil Sysoev was one of the motives for the murder of Fr Daniel Sysoev, said Archdeacon Andrei Kuraev, a professor of at the Moscow Theological Academy. “I’m convinced that his murderer was motivated by religious aims. If so, then, of course, we should add Fr Daniil’s name to the list of the New Martyrs of Russia”, Deacon Andrei told our Interfax-Religion correspondent on Friday. In his belief, “That’s the only thing that could cause someone to hate Fr Daniil Sysoev. It wasn’t due to anything personal nor was it some kind of business deal gone wrong; rather, we can find the cause in his very lively, heartfelt, and passionate preaching of Orthodoxy”. Deacon Andrei observed that the slain priest was an ethnic Tatar. “His mission was largely focused on work with Muslim intellectuals. His debates were heated, open, and public. Don’t rule out that maybe someone who attended or heard of his interviews lacked reasonable arguments and common restraint, so, a bullet was their last argument in their debate with an Orthodox priest”, he said.

As Deacon Andrei noted (he is a well-known missionary of long-standing himself), the murder of Fr Daniil must be the last word in the “overly-protracted intra-Church conversation about how the whole Church should surround its missionaries with prayer, support, and protection. The Church prays daily for the authorities, the army, the sick, and travellers… both priests and the people of God’s Church should ask the Lord daily to send us the gift of bold preaching and wisdom as well”. In his view, “Fr Daniil’s preaching and martyrs’ death will be a symbol of the missionary revival of our Church. No matter how sad are the circumstances of his death, we must at the same time note that a missionary, by definition, should be open and available. Therefore, this tragedy should not be taken as an excuse to restrict Orthodox missionaries”. If such evil things happen, “It only means that the Lord has called unto Himself this hard worker”, he added.

A source in the police told Interfax that the killer of Fr Daniil Sysoev agreed with him about a meeting by telephone. “Before the tragedy occurred, the unknown assassin called on their mobile and asked whether he would be in the church, our source said. According to him, when the priest replied in the affirmative, the killer drove to the church and shot him. “The call was made from a mobile”, our source said.

According to investigators, on 19 November, approximately 22.45 Moscow Standard Time (19.45 UTC 14.45 EST 11.45 PST), on the premises of St Thomas church in the Kantemirov district of Moscow, an unknown masked man entered and fired at least four shots, hitting Fr Daniil Sysoev, as well as Vladimir Strelbitsky, the parish choir-director. Fr Daniil died of his wounds in the ambulance. After receiving the appropriate emergency trauma care, Mr Strelbitsky is in stable condition.

The Investigation department of the Investigative Committee of the Moscow RF Procurator’s Office instituted criminal proceedings on three articles of the Criminal Code, murder, attempted murder of two or more persons, and illicit trafficking in firearms. To provide practical assistance in the investigation, the central office of the Investigation Committee sent an experienced team of forensics experts. “An investigation team is now in place. We’ve checked out various motives for the crime, including religious grounds”, Anatoly Bagmet, the head of the investigation department of the RF SKP in Moscow informed Interfax.

Fr Daniel was 35-years-old and his wife and three children survive him. In recent years, he devoted much time to missionary work, in particular, he founded a school of street preachers in Moscow and began to organise similar courses in Saratov, Ulyanovsk, and Murmansk.

The unknown assailant who committed the murder of Fr Daniil Sysoev at St Thomas church in Moscow hid his face under gauze bandages, a police source told our Interfax correspondent on Friday. According to our source, investigators at the scene removed four spent cartridges and two 9 mm bullets. Another police source also stated that the gunman used gauze bandages, adding, “The killer fired four times, with three bullets hitting the priest and choir-director, two of which exited their bodies and we later found them on the crime-scene”. In critical condition with head and neck wounds, Fr Daniil was taken to hospital, where he died at midnight Moscow Standard Time (21.00 UTC 16.00 EST 13.00 PST). Choir-director Vladimir Strelbitsky remains hospitalised in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the chest. Our source added that it is not yet clear what type of weapon the perp used in the crime. “We discovered spent cartridge cases at the crime scene that suggest, most likely, that the perp used a Makarov pistol” {Editor’s note: The 9 mm Makarov PM semi-automatic pistol, with an 8-round clip, is an earlier-pattern (adopted 1951) Russian standard military/police sidearm. It’s still in widespread police/military use and it’s 9x18mm PM cartridge is also used in other weapons, thus, the ambiguity in the police statement.}, he said.

Currently, investigators and operatives are checking the incoming and outgoing phone calls of Fr Daniil, as well as looking at his e-mail. As Interfax previously reported, according to updated information, before the commission of the crime, the murderer called Fr Daniil from his mobile. In addition, Fr Daniil received numerous threats at his address in connection with his intensive missionary activity.

The RF Interior Ministry is considering various versions of the murder in Moscow of Fr Daniil Sysoev, and detectives already have “some ideas” that are currently being checked, Valery Gribakin, an official representative of the RF Ministry of Internal Affairs told reporters on Friday. “This is a very serious matter. Currently, the investigators are still working very hard on it, so we don’t want to dwell on any specific speculation in the best interests of the investigation”, he said. According to Mr Gribakin, the police are taking all measures to thoroughly investigate and solve this killing of an Orthodox priest. “In regards to the activities of the RF Interior Ministry and the Moscow city police related to the search for the person who committed this serious crime, we literally from the first minute (after the murder) formed a special team. It comprises of experienced staff from the Moscow criminal investigation department of the Criminal Investigation Department (MVD RF). These top-class professionals specialise in the investigation of the most serious and complicated crimes”. He noted that other interested departments of the Moscow metropolitan police and the RF Ministry of Internal Affairs provides assistance to them. He said that detectives have been active throughout the night working not only on the crime-scene itself, but, in other parts of Moscow as well. “At this point, there are certain developments that we are checking carefully. The work is continuing, and, at this moment, we are exploring all the circumstances surrounding the crime. The on-scene investigation group is still carrying out its examination”, Mr Gribakin added.

The Central Office of the SKP joined the investigation of the murder of Fr Daniil Sysoev, Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the SKP told Interfax on Friday. “To assist in the investigation of the crime, the central office of the SKP sent an experienced forensic team”, he said, adding, according to the investigation, “The murder was motivated by religious hatred”. For a long time Fr Daniil received death threats because of his religious activities. Currently, detectives are studying the contents of the hard disk on Fr Daniil’s computer. The Intelligence and Investigations Unit conducted a survey of the site, and they found spent cartridges, two bullets, and other items relevant to the case. They also questioned the witnesses to the crime. The highest level of the Investigative Committee at the Procurator’s Office has taken over the investigation into Fr Daniil’s murder.

Most of the above information is unofficial; Interfax has little information from official sources on this subject.

20 November 2009








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