“Every second counts.” An Orthodox priest from Dagestan recounts surviving a second terrorist attack
Алла Константинова|Дмитрий Швец
“Every second counts.” An Orthodox priest from Dagestan recounts surviving a second terrorist attack
24 June 2024, 18:27

Sergius Abasov. Photo: pravoslavie.ru

Orthodox priest Sergius has survived two terrorist attacks: in 2018 in Grozny, Chechnya, and in 2024 in Makhachkala, Dagestan. Both times, he and his parishioners took shelter in a church. During yesterday’s attack on Derbent, Dagestan’s second largest city, his father-in-law, 66-year-old protopriest Nikolay Kotelnikov, was murdered. Mediazona spoke briefly with Father Serguis about Sunday evening’s events in Dagestan. 

They attacked churches in Derbent and Makhachkala simultaneously. I was in the Makhachkala Holy Assumption Cathedral during the service when I heard gunshots, bangs and explosions. We quickly closed all the doors; everyone understood that every second counted.

The service ended at 6:30 p.m. Right after that, my wife rang to say her dad had been killed. Within 10–15 minutes, it all began for us.

My father-in-law [Father Nikolay Kotelnikov] was near the Church of the Intercession in Derbent, in the house on the premises: he hadn’t been serving for several years now, just praying there. He used a walking frame to go to church and pray.

That day, he’d received the sacraments and was simply resting, getting some fresh air—he survived several strokes. His wife said she was on the church grounds and likely witnessed [the murder].

By 6:40 p.m., we had already closed the doors. We heard gunshots. I was standing near the door in the altar area when I saw an explosion, black smoke and more shots. I was certain there were more than two attackers. I closed the door, ran to the centre of the church and closed the main entrance too. Several people were already leaving; I got some of them back inside. There were 19 of us.

This time was different. We tried to calm and support each other, and first and foremost, we started to pray. At 11:30 pm, we were evacuated and taken to the police station for questioning It lasted until four in the morning. Then I took my children home and went back to the church.

Editor: Dmitry Tkachev

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