Russian authorities have found smashed fragments of a century-old figure of the mythical demon Mephistopheles which had been removed from a building in St. Petersburg.
Local police said on August 28 the fragments were found amid construction refuse after it disappeared this week from the facade of a historic building.
The city's heritage committee said the figure, which overlooked the nearby construction site of a new Orthodox church, depicted a "mythical bat-winged creature."
A group, which identified itself as Cossacks of St. Petersburg, claimed responsibility for removing the work of art, saying it encouraged "open worship of Satan."
Established Cossack groups in the city denied any knowledge of this group.
"It's possible to understand the culprit,” an Orthodox Church spokesman said. “As a believer, he finds images of a demon disgusting."
Prosecutors have opened an investigation into the theft.
Based on reporting by AFP and AP