Russian nuclear centre buys diamante icons

Rhinestone-encrusted religious icon Image copyright Zakupki.gov.ru

Russia's top nuclear research facility has put out a state tender for 76 rhinestone-encrusted icons, it's reported.

The Federal Nuclear Centre is willing to part with more than 327,000 roubles (5,000 dollars) for the icons of Saint Seraphim of Sarov, according to documents on the state procurement website.

The tender also includes religious paintings and books, worth more than 2.3m roubles in total (35,300 dollars).

A representative of the centre told the Novaya Gazeta newspaper that the icons are "souvenir products", but refused to elaborate further about the reason for the purchase.

Image caption The Federal Nuclear Centre in Sarov one of the country's top-secret nuclear warhead facilities

The facility in Sarov, western Russia, is nothing if not secretive. During the Soviet era, even ordinary Russians could not visit the city without a special permit.

Sarovsky or Swarovski?

Russian social media users didn't seem to know what to make of the flashy purchase.

One wondered what experiments would be conducted with the bling. "Maybe they confused Sarovsky with Swarovski?" another one suggested.

"They have discovered a diamante spirituality gene in the atom and are keeping it a secret," said one comment under the Novaya Gazeta article.

Saint Serafim of Sarov, or Serafim Sarovsky, is a revered saint in the Russian Orthodox Church.

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This is not the first time the saint has found himself at the centre of attention.

In September 2016, the Zvezda military news website reported that parts of Sarov's remains would be sent to the International Space Station.

After the 155-day trip, cosmonaut Sergei Ryzhikov said the saint's relics would be returned to a church in Star City, home of Russia's cosmonaut training centre, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Reporting by Jen Monaghan

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