Orthodox priest Philip speaks about Ahmed Zakayev and the horrors of Chechen captivity. Izvestia vs. Priest Philip
A “sensation” published in the Russian newspaper Izvestia under the title “Shadow of Father Philip” is an ordinary fraud, a forgery. The key figure of the publication, Father Philip, says that the Izvestia publication contradicts reality and that journalists lied when they wrote that he “denied his testimony against Maskhadov’s emissary Ahmed Zakayev, who is detained in Denmark."
The Orthodox review Radonezh published the text of the statement given to the press by Father Philip; the Orthodox priest was in Chechen captivity in 1996 together with another priest, Father Anatoly.
The statement runs as follows: “I appeal to you (the Radonezh editorial staff is meant) in connection with the fact that the newspaper Izvestia published false information saying that the key witness had denied his testimony against Ahmed Zakayev. First of all, I wasn’t a witness, but suffered, which by the way is quite a different status. Second, I couldn’t deny my evidence, as I had been warned about the punishment for giving false evidence. And finally, Izvestia published that my testimony contained nothing about Zakayev’s connection with my kidnapping in 1996. In fact, this statement contradicts reality and the materials collected on the case. By the way, in my short telephone conversation with Izvestia journalists, I mentioned nothing at all about pressure exerted upon me by the General Prosecutor’s Office. Does it make sense for the Prosecutor’s Office to exert any kind of pressure on me when there are lots of evidence and other proofs sufficient enough for the office to have its own opinion on the problem? I would also like to add that the text published in Izvestia was not agreed upon by me.”
Yesterday, the Radonezh website republished an interview with Father Philip (Zhigulin) “Vicar’s Duty.” “Two Orthodox priests, Father Philip (Zhigulin) and Father Anatoly (Chistousov) were kidnapped on January 29, 1996, on the way to the Chechen capital of Grozny from Urus-Martan, where they negotiated the release of a captive Russian military man. Father Philip was released only after 160 days, on April 4, 1996. Father Anatoly was killed by the Chechen guerrillas.” Soon after release from Chechen captivity, Father Philip gave the following interview.
“For the first time, I saw the sun after four months of the captivity. We lived in the basements of destroyed buildings. For two weeks, when a thorough investigation was carried out under control of Johar Dudayev personally, the people were held captive in a burrow, which was very narrow, and the people couldn’t stand or move. Later on, as federal troops were advancing, we were moved to the mountains and placed into blindages, where up to 100-130 people lived. This lasted for 3.5 months. The blindages were completely flooded with rain. The hostages were sitting there at a temperature of zero; the Chechens took our clothes away. It is just a miracle that the other people and I survived under those awful conditions. No doubt, we survived only thanks to God’s help. I would like to say we were in a double or even triple captivity, as we were among people belonging to criminal circles and not really very bright people as well. Those people pursued only their brutal instincts: they wanted to stuff themselves with food and even could take sugar or bread away from other people. I called upon the people for reason. I tried to make the people wise, and even resorted to awful measures: I didn’t read the burial service for those who died without repentance, without considering their earthly living. And the Chechens couldn’t understand why I read the burial service for some people and didn’t read it for others, at the time when all of us were Orthodox. And the strict measure had its effect: sometimes, people who felt the coming of the death asked me if I would read the burial service for them or not. They felt inside their souls that their condition would soon change. Under such conditions, I had to carry out my vicar duty in a special way.”
Yesterday, the RF General Prosecutor’s Office declared that publications in the mass media denying connection of Maskhadov’s emissary Ahmed Zakayev with the kidnapping of the priests in Chechnya were a “forgery, obviously made to order.” Head of the PR department of the General Prosecutor’s Office Leonid Troshin says that “the publications were designed to hinder the justice process.”
Publications similar to that one in Izvestia are especially astonishing, because last Sunday, the Russian television channel RTR aired the program “Orthodox Priest Accuses Zakayev” by journalist Ilya Kanavin. Father Philip talked to the journalist and said that he had chanced to see Ahmed Zakayev right at the moment when Chechens led him out of the basement with his hands tied. And Zakayev, who had held negotiations with the priest just few days before that moment, couldn’t but see and recognize him.
“Nowadays, he looks rather respectably. One would hardly recognize him, but it’s impossible to change one’s eyes. I think I know the eyes of the man. I saw him just once among Chechen guerrillas somewhere in a destroyed school in Stary Achkhoy, during my captivity in Chechnya. He himself declared openly that he was in charge of the jail right at the period when we were kidnapped and placed into a concentration camp in Stary Achkhoy and later in Bamut.” Photo by RTR-Vesti.Ru: Father Philip (Zhigulin)
Sergey Stefanov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://society.pravda.ru/society/2002/8/26/80/3206_Zakaev.html