Grozny, 24 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - Chechen police today freed the dean of the Russian Orthodox church of Saint Michael the Archangel in Grozny, Father Efim, and his aide, Alexey Ravilov. Chechen police say a "criminal gang" had kidnapped the two clerics south of Grozny two weeks ago and held them hostage until today.
Chechnya's Interior Minister, Kazbek Makhashev, says police freed the hostages as their captors were transporting them from one secret hiding place to another.
Interior ministry officials say the priest and his aide did not suffer bodily harm and are in "relatively good" health.
The head of Chechnya's crime department, Khamzan Munayev, told Interfax Chechen police did not arrest the kidnappers because they had wanted to avoid an exchange of gun-fire, but he said police are trying to track them down.
Munayev did not specify where in Chechnya the release took place.