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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Mafia' Seized at Gunpoint in Hotel

Masked security forces with machineguns and flak jackets raided the Radisson Slavjanskaya Hotel on Friday, snatching a group of suspected gangsters from the bar under the bemused looks of Western guests. Guns bristling and cigarettes dangling from their lips, a dozen Interior Ministry troops dressed in camouflage gear and black leather gloves entered the riverside U.S-run hotel in search of criminals. The official in charge of the operation, launched by the Moscow Regional Crime Fighting Unit of the Interior Ministry, said 10 people were arrested. "According to our information, the men were members of two mafia groups from Moscow. They met in this hotel to have talks," he said, asking not to be named. He gave no details. Hotel guests fled after a moment of panic as the troops, armed with machineguns and pistols, ran across the marble-floor lobby past a cafe full of lunchtime crowds. Western television cameramen and journalists popped out of their hotel offices to watch as the troops headed straight into the bar, where they forced a dozen men to the floor at gunpoint. An American businessman watched stoically from his table, sipping his martini as he stared at the men lying on the floor next to his feet. "Security is great in this hotel," he joked. Last week the United States Embassy had held a briefing for Americans living in Moscow -- the subject was personal security. Outside, more gun-toting security men were searching a cherry-colored Mercedes sports car for guns in the parking lot. "This is our life, this is the mafia," said a sober-looking hotel official as the suspects, hands above their heads, were led to a shabby bus which pulled up next to the front entrance. Security officials did not disclose the identity of the detainees nor say what the charges were. The same day in the Moscow region, Itar-Tass said police freed a businessman held captive by organized crime gangs who were demanding a ransom of 4 billion rubles (just over $2 million). The hostage was the director of a private enterprise and the kidnappers were employees of another commercial firm in the Moscow region, the news agency said. Interior Ministry officials say they investigate an average 15 cases of hostage-taking and 35 of armed clashes between rival mafia gangs in Russia in any given month. Officials put the number of murders last year at 25,000, many by contract killers and a mix of assassins ranging from young, untrained criminals hired to attack rivals to professional hit men. In a separate incident Friday, a Russian factory worker who kidnapped one policeman and four women at a train station blew himself up with a hand grenade after killing one of his female victims, Interfax reported. The kidnapper took a policeman hostage on a passenger train traveling from Astrakhan on the Caspian Sea to Nizhny Novgorod east of Moscow, got off the train at a station and snatched four women from the platform. He later shot and killed one of the women before fleeing in a car with his victims. The man, a worker at an electricity plant in the central Penza region, later freed his hostages and blew himself up during negotiations with police, according to Interfax.