MOSCOW: Russian investigators on Wednesday charged an advisor with football club Zenit, who is an ordained priest, with sexually assaulting two underage girls while at a religious summer camp.
Investigators said they are looking for 34-year-old Gleb Grozovsky, who works as an advisor to Maksim Mitrofanov, the general director of FC Zenit of Saint Petersburg and is now at large.
The Russian Investigative Committeee said it believed Grozovsky, an Orthodox priest and former rector of a parish near Saint Petersburg, has "sexually assaulted a nine-year-old and 12-year-old girls".
Grozovsky, 34, was with the girls on the Greek island of Kos as part of an Orthodox summer camp in June, and molested them in a hotel, a statement said.
There is an international warrant for his arrest and the probe is ongoing, investigators said, adding that there was "information that the accused has committed a series of similar crimes in Saint-Petersburg and the region".
Grozovsky had asked to be let go from his job in the Russian Orthodox Church's diocese in his region, but was not formally defrocked, a church representative Aleksiy Volchkov told Russian news agencies.
In a post on his networking page, Grozovsky denied all the accusations and said he is working with drug addicts in Israel with the blessing of his superiors.
"All the Orthodox parents are on my side and know that the accusations are fabricated and are the result of my socially-oriented activities and civic position," he wrote on his VKontakte page.
"This is unexpected and unpleasant information," Zenit said in a statement published by Russian news agencies.
Grozovsky is a football player himself and Zenit players have "approached him as a religious figure" in the past, it said.
"We know Gleb since 2007 and know him only in a good light," the statement said, adding that his situation has nothing to do with the club.
A member of Grozovsky's former parish in a village near Saint Petersburg, who helped organise the Greek trip told AFP that the the crime had been "committed by another person".
Grozovsky was the organiser of the camp, which had about 30 children and several parents, said Vladislav, a volunteer who helped with the trip. He declined to give his last name.
"It's all a lie," he said. "He has huge experience of working with children."
Grozovsky is a well-known priest in Saint-Petersburg, who works with drug and alcohol addicts, coordinates a slew of church-affiliated youth programmes and has his own radio show.