Two Russian Priest Hostages Released, Fate of Third Uncertain

On March 29, 1999, the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate issued a communique detailing the abduction of two Orthodox priests, Petr Makarov and Petr Sukhonosov, who had been taken hostage on the territory of Ingushetia.

His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, responded quickly, sending a letter of support to His Holiness, Patriarch ALEKSY of Moscow, and asking the faithful of the Orthodox Church in America to pray for the priests speedy release.

Since that time, it was reported that a third Orthodox priest, Sergei Potapov, had also been taken hostage, as were five military servicemen.

In an Ecumenical News International press release dated June 1, 1999, it was announced that Fathers Makarov and Potapov, together with the five servicemen, had been released. Father Sukhonosov remains among hundreds of Russians still being held captive in the Chechen Republic.

Patriarch ALEKSY and the newly appointed Russian Interior Minister, Vladimir Rushailo, met the priests and servicemen at the Moscow airport and declared that no ransom had been paid to secure their release.

“To make a business out of hostage taking is immoral, and so is encouraging criminals to do so,” Patriarch ALEKSY said with reference to negotiations to secure the priests release. Taking priests hostage was “doubly immoral,” the Patriarch added.

After their release, the priests were shown on Russian television with bruised faces. Father Potapov said he had been kept in a pit, fed once a week, and beaten regularly.

The Very Rev. Vsevolod Chaplin, a spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, expressed the Church’ concern for the fate of 69-year-old Father Sukhonosov, adding that there are conflicting reports on whether or not he is still alive.

“We rejoice that Fathers Makarov and Potapov have been freed from captivity, and we commit ourselves to continuing our prayers for the speedy release of Father Sukhonosov and the many other hostages in the region,” Metropolitan THEODOSIUS said upon learning of the priests release.