Several thousand Russian Orthodox believers participated in a religious procession in Yekaterinburg on the night of July 16-17 even though local authorities had denied permission to hold the event because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Since the early 1990s, the procession has been held annually to mark the anniversary of the execution of Tsar Nicholas II and his family by the Bolsheviks in 1918.
The Russian Orthodox metropolitan of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye participated in the event, saying beforehand that the procession “had grown beyond the framework of a so-called event to become something sacred in the lives of tens of thousands of people.” However, he called on believers to “take all possible measures to protect their own lives and those of people around them.”
Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Yevgeny Kuivashyov posted on Instagram on July 8 that officials were denying permission to hold the event because last year participants did not wear masks or maintain physical distancing. He said there was evidence that last year’s procession led to an increase in coronavirus infections.
He added that the pandemic situation is even more dangerous this year because of new strains of the virus.
According to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, Russia has seen more than 5.8 million infections and over 144,000 deaths since the pandemic began. It has been experiencing a significant third wave of infections since late June.
Critics, however, say the actual numbers of both infections and deaths are likely much higher in Russia due to misreporting of some deaths and the intentional hiding of others.