Former Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk reportedly paid a visit to a church headed by a controversial priest amid his standoff with the Russian Orthodox Church only to pray with his family and left shortly afterwards.

According to reports in local media on Wednesday, Datsyuk was among those staying at Ekaterinburg’s Central Urals Monastery, which had been seized by Shiigumen (father superior) Sergius, and put under a guard of Cossaks after he had been ordered to halt his services due to his Covid-19 conspiracy beliefs.

However, Vsevolod Moguchev, a colleague of Father Sergius, the priest in question, refuted claims that the hockey star spent any significant time holed up with the rogue priest and said that the 41-year-old simply arrived with family members to pray and show his support to Sergius.

“He comes here to pray with his family. I sometimes bump into him at the places of worship. Datsyuk has a warm relationship with Father Sergius,” Moguchev was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.

“The presence of priests here has great significance for [Datsyuk]. Father Sergius has a great number of spiritual children… they love and trust Father Sergius. I believe they will be with him whatever happens,” he added.

Datsyuk’s manager Dan Milstein has also denied reports that the player was among those staying at the church with Sergius, saying that the Russian hockey star is currently at his countryside cottage with his family. The hockey agent has also posted a clip showing Datsyuk chopping wood at his cottage on this Twitter account.

Pavel Datsyuk’s morning workout and family breakfast at the cottage. Have a good summer everyone!

“Pavel Datsyuk’s morning workout and family breakfast at the cottage. Have a good summer everyone!” reads the caption.

Nevertheless, Datsyuk’s reported visit to the church has been seen as a show of support for Sergius, who remains a major figure in the hockey star’s life, and for whom he has served as personal confessor for over a decade.

“Father Sergius has been my spiritual father for more than 10 years. [He] has a burning, loving heart, he sees me through and through,” Datsyuk has said of the priest, Russian media reported.

Father Sergius is a highly controversial figure in Russia and has recently been banned from conducting services by the Russian Orthodox Church for his coronavirus conspiracy beliefs and refusing to limit services during the pandemic.

The priest has been quoted by media as saying the outbreak of Covid-19, which has led to 440,000 deaths worldwide, is a “pseudo-pandemic” that is being used as an excuse to microchip the public, and claiming the subsequent closure of churches in Russia was done under pressure from “the atheistic authorities.”

A former police officer who spent 13 years in prison for murder, Father Sergius is well known among Russia’s Christian community, and is due to face trial on June 26, charged with disobeying Patriarch Kirill.

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Jennifer Alvarez is an investigative journalist and is a correspondent for European Union. She is based in Zurich in Switzerland and her field of work include covering human rights violations which take place in the various countries in and outside Europe. She also reports about the political situation in European Union. She has worked with some reputed companies in Europe and is currently contributing to USA News as a freelance journalist. As someone who has a Masters’ degree in Human Rights she also delivers lectures on Intercultural Management to students of Human Rights. She is also an authority on the Arab world politics and their diversity.