MOSCOW (Reuters) - A college teacher who confessed to killing two women in their Russian apartment says he scrawled “Free Pussy Riot” in blood on the wall to mislead investigators, police said on Friday.
The initial hint that the killer was inspired by the jailed Pussy Riot punk band provoked new criticism by a Russian Orthodox Church official who said the group’s supporters now had “blood on their conscience”.
But the police report said the crime was not inspired by the group or its protest against President Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral for which three band members were jailed.
The 38-year-old suspect told police he killed a former classmate and her mother and then wrote the words on the wall “to draw suspicion away from himself and portray it as a ritual killing,” the regional Interior Ministry said.
The bodies were found on Wednesday and state television repeatedly showed images of the slogan daubed on the kitchen wall of the apartment in Kazan, capital of the Tatarstan region 720 km (450 miles) east of Moscow.
The “punk prayer” Pussy Riot performed at the Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February was a protest against Putin and the support for him from the Russian Orthodox Church.
The jailing of three band members for two years drew international criticism and opposition leaders hope Pussy Riot supporters will join street protests starting in September.
Russia’s constitution says it is a secular country but ties between the state and the Russian Orthodox Church have become tighter since the 1991 collapse of the communist Soviet Union.
On Friday, Interfax reported that the Church’s leader, Patriarch Kirill, blessed Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, who was promoted by Putin in May from his post as Moscow police chief in an appointment seen as an endorsement of sometimes tough methods used to keep protests in check.
Police said the suspect in the killings in Kazan had pretended to be courting the younger victim after she helped him pay off his debts by borrowing hundreds of thousands of roubles (tens of thousands of dollars) from banks.
The suspect promised the woman they would take a vacation together, but grabbed a knife and killed her during a quarrel after he told her they would be unable to take the trip.
State television showed what it said was the suspect, his face blurred out, calmly giving an account of the killings.
Police said he had taken the knife used in the killings with him after the murders and stole 100,000 roubles ($3,100) and two mobile phones from the apartment.
He was detained after the phones and the knife were found on the balcony of the apartment where he lived with his parents. A court ordered him held in custody for two months and he could be imprisoned for life if convicted of the killings.
Editing by Robin Pomeroy