Moscow police have discovered a brothel on the premises of a monastery whose abbot is thought to be President Vladimir Putin's spiritual adviser.
Two women were arrested on suspicion of prostitution after seven rooms were found in a building close to Sretensky Monastery where sexual services were offered from 1,750 roubles (€43) per hour.
Father Tikhon, the abbot of the monastery, is said to be a religious counsellor to Mr Putin, who is a confirmed Russian Orthodox believer.
There were conflicting reports over the ownership of the brothel, found in one of a chain of mini-hotels called Podushkin.
Life News, a popular muckraking website, said the building where the brothel was located on Rozhdestvensky Boulevard had been rented out by the monastery.
However, an attendant at the monastery was quoted as saying: "Some time ago we rented premises for our seminary. The bordello was only found then, when we started to check which rooms had become temporarily ours, and which hadn't. This establishment had been there for a long time; it belongs to someone and has absolutely no connection to us."
Another source at the monastery told Interfax news agency that monks "had heard that next to us was a hotel offering 'intimate services'" but it was nothing to do with them.
A video of the alleged brothel showed leather harnesses, chains and whips hanging in a basement and Podushkin's website advertises rooms in the hotel "fitted out for erotic games".
Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, took a harsh stance earlier this year when three members of the Pussy Riot feminist opposition group staged a "punk prayer" in Moscow's main cathedral, Christ the Saviour.
The church leader, who is a close ally of Mr Putin, called the protest blasphemous. The three women were later convicted and sentenced to two years in prison, although one has since been released on appeal.
Critics of the church say its moral posturing is eroded by the behaviour of senior clerics. Patriarch Kirill was pilloried in April for wearing a £20,000 (€25,000) Breguet watch and a priest in Moscow came under scrutiny in August after crashing a BMW Z4 roadster with Maltese licence plates.
The fact that a commercial car-wash operates underneath Christ the Saviour has also been ridiculed.
The church, meanwhile, claims it is the victim of a smear campaign. (© Daily Telegraph, London)