The Russian Orthodox Church is furiously trying to calm a media storm after police uncovered a brothel on the grounds of one of Moscow's most prestigious monasteries.
The "hotel for lovers" was found operating out of a building belonging to the Sretensky Monastery, an ancient institution just up the road from the headquarters of the Federal Security Service. Two women, from Ukraine and Tajikistan, were arrested during a raid at the weekend.
The institution's seedy reputation was apparently well known. Local media reported that it rented out its seven rooms by the hour, at rates starting from 1,750 roubles (£35).
Founded in 1395, the monastery is one of the city's oldest religious institutions. Legend has it that it was founded on the spot where Muscovites met a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary brought from the neighbouring city of Vladimir to save Moscow from Tamerlane's marauding armies.
The monastery's Father Superior, Archimandrite Tikhon, is said to be President Vladimir Putin's personal spiritual adviser. Father Tikhon hit back at what he called a "media sensation" surrounding the brothel, telling a state-owned channel that the "lovers' hotel" was in a building the monastery acquired only recently, and that evicting the current business occupying the premises was one of the conditions of the sale. He even joked that the church was "lucky" the issue had finally been dealt with.
"Today's storm in the media is just one example of how people are willing to take any slander and not only make a vulgar joke out of it, but launch a very real information attack against the Church," he said.