The killing could threaten delicate relations between the powerful majority Russian Orthodox Church, which has close ties to the Kremlin, and the country’s growing Muslim minority of about 20 million.
The gunman approached priest Daniil Sysoyev, 34, in St Thomas Church in southern Moscow Thursday night, checked his name and then opened fire with a pistol, a spokesman for the investigating committee of the Prosecutor-General’s office said.
Sysoyev was from Tatarstan, a predominantly Muslim region of Russia on the Volga river. He was threatened after preaching to Muslims and Christians from other denominations.
“I have received 10 threats via e-mail that I shall have my head cut off (if I do not stop preaching to Muslims),” Sysoyev stated on a television program in February 2008, according to Interfax. “As I see it, it is a sin not to preach to Muslims.”
“Islam is far from being a religion in the way we understand it,” he said in one of his video lectures posted on YouTube (here in Russian). “Islam can be rather compared with projects like National Socialism or the Communist party seeking to create God’s kingdom on Earth using humanly instruments,” he added.