TURKMENISTAN: Families to Finance Baptists' Deportation?

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 28 June 2001

Two Baptists who have been living and working in Turkmenistan have been detained and are believed to be on the brink of deportation, Keston News Service has learnt. Yevgeny Potolov and Vyacheslav Kalataevsky are both believed to be Russian citizens. The Turkmen authorities are reported to have asked the two men's relatives for money to finance their deportation.

A 27 June statement from local Baptists - passed on to Keston News Service by the German-based Friedensstimme mission - reported that Potolov and Kalataevsky were seized the previous day while travelling from the Caspian port city of Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnovodsk) to the town of Balkanabad (formerly Nebit-Dag) 155 kilometres (95 miles) to the south-west. `They had their residence permits taken away and their relatives were asked for money for air-tickets for their deportation,' the statement added. `The current whereabouts of the two brothers are unknown.' Local Baptists called on the authorities to free the two and allow them to return to their families.

The two Baptists belong to a congregation affiliated with the Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians/Baptists, a group uniting congregations in many former Soviet republics. Although Keston has been unable to verify the report of Potolov and Kalataevsky's detention independently, reports distributed through the Council of Churches have a long track record of reliability.

Potolov, who lives in Turkmenbashi, was detained with a fellow Baptist in the eastern city of Turkmenabad (formerly Chardjou) last February and severely beaten by officers of Turkmenistan's political police, the KNB (former KGB) (see KNS 19 February 2001). Despite being told by the KNB at the time that his deportation was imminent, he was suddenly freed by the KNB two days later and allowed to return home to his family.

Six Baptist families active in local congregations of the Council of Churches are known to have been deported from Turkmenistan in the past few years despite having legal residence in the country (see KNS 26 May 2000). All were Russian or Ukrainian citizens. Hundreds of foreign citizens active with other faiths - including members of other Protestant churches, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses and Hare Krishna devotees - have also been deported. (END)