Purse-Snatchers Cause Street Ruckus

A theft victim opened fire on a group of purse-snatchers Friday in central Moscow, resulting in a series of fender-benders as the thieves escaped by car, police said.

The man found the thieves stealing his handbag from his car on Petrovsky Bulvar, near the Trubnaya metro station, and fired several rounds at them from a gas pistol as they fled in an Audi, police spokesman Anatoly Lastovetsky said.

The rubber bullets broke the windows and punctured the body of the Audi, which careened into three other cars as the suspects drove off, Lastovetsky said. No one was injured. The contents of the stolen bag were unclear.

The assailants, known as barsetochniki, or thieves who specialize in stealing barsetki, the small leather handbags used by some men to transport money and documents, remained at large. Barsetochniki have become such a persistent problem in the city in recent years that police have formed a special unit to combat them.