A 26-year-old man entered a Moscow church during services on Sunday and stabbed two people before being restrained by members of the congregation, Russian media reported.
Police arrested the attacker, Efim Efimov, from the Lipetsk region south of Moscow, who allegedly carried out the assault in the Russian Orthodox church of Saint Nicholas, in central Moscow.
For the moment police are not calling the incident a terrorist attack, media revealed.
The motives behind the attack are still unclear but Efimov, who is a welder by profession and worked in construction on a rotational basis in Moscow, told human rights workers that he “freaked out” and that “there were many problems.”
According to a statement by Irina Volk, spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior, “police arrested a 26-year-old man from the Lipetsk region who entered a church on Bakuninskaya Street on the morning of February 16 and injured two people with a knife.”
According to one eyewitness, “the man burst into the church during the service with a knife and attacked the parishioners near the altar.”
Archpriest Kirill Sladkov, the parish priest of Saint Nicholas church and head of the youth department of the Moscow city diocese, said the attacker was wearing glasses, rubber gloves, a hood, and appeared to be listening to music with headphones when he entered the church.
“We went to him to find out what was going on and to get him out calmly,” the priest told Russian television. “At that moment, he took out a knife and stabbed my assistant. After that, all my assistants who were present tried to detain him and he stabbed another of my colleagues twice.”
Police have reportedly arrested another six persons from the Lipetsk region for possible connections to the incident, while investigators are also inquiring into the attacker’s mental balance.
The church of Saint Nicholas, which dates back to the 16th century, was converted into a pastry shop during the Stalin era and underwent serious deterioration. In 1992 it was returned to the Orthodox Church but the liturgical services did not return until 1995.
The two injured members of the faithful, named Andrey and Valery, have been released from the hospital and are back home, Rev. Sladkov posted on Instagram.