Friday 26 June 1998

PENTECOSTAL MISSIONARY COUPLE FREED IN DAGESTAN. Seized in January, they are recuperating in western Europe with their families. Several other hostages remain in the North Caucasus including two Hungarians and a Russian. by Felix Corley, Keston News Service DANIEL and PAULINA BROLIN, a Swedish Pentecostal couple held hostage in the southern Russian region of Dagestan for nearly six months, have been freed by law enforcement agencies. The operation, headed by Dagestan Security Council secretary MAGOMED TOLBOYEV, was launched on Tuesday night, 23 June, after three days' preparation. The Swedish TT agency quoted an anonymous source which said that a 30-man unit of Dagestan and Chechen security forces had handled the operation, in which shots were fired but no one was hurt. The Brolins were freed just before midnight on 23 June on the border between Dagestan and Chechnya. `Paulina and Daniel Brolin are feeling well considering the circumstances and now need peace and quiet and time with their families. They are in a safe and secluded place outside the region,' declared the Swedish foreign ministry, which announced the news of the Brolins' release at a Wednesday press conference in Stockholm. Although negotiations had been going on with the kidnappers, apparently no ransom was paid. Following their release, the Brolins were taken to Baku in Azerbaijan, and flew from there on Wednesday to a destination in western Europe for recuperation.  The pastor of their home church met the couple on Wednesday morning and reported at the foreign ministry press conference that both Daniel and Paulina had had medical examinations and were declared to be in good health.   The couple, Pentecostal students in their early twenties from Vasteras, 80 km (50 miles) west of Stockholm, were seized on 8 January as they were walking to their rented flat in central Makhachkala, the Dagestani capital. They had been training to become missionaries in this mostly Muslim region at the time of their abduction. The Swedish foreign ministry has been involved in efforts to secure the Brolins' release. Diplomats travelled down to the region from Moscow to boost the search. But a key role was played by a Chechen representative, ALI ASAYEV, who was present at Wednesday's press conference. He had visited Sweden some weeks ago and met the couple's parents and foreign ministry officials, who in turn had asked the Chechen official to act on their behalf as negotiator. During their captivity three videos of the couple were sent out by the kidnappers and extracts were shown on Swedish and Russian television. During their ordeal the Brolins were kept in rat and lice infested cellars. The North Caucasus, including Dagestan and Chechnya, has seen a spate of kidnappings over the past few years. A number of foreigners have been seized and several remain as hostages. Action by Churches Together (ACT), an aid organisation sponsored by the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation, told Keston News Service on 25 June that there has been no recent news of their associates held hostage in Chechnya. Two Hungarians, GABOR DYNAIJSKY and ISTVAN OLAH, were seized in the Chechen capital Grozny last October, while a Russian DMITRI PETROV was seized in Ingushetia last September. Another Russian seized with him, DMITRI PENKOVSKY, was freed in March. (END)