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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hotel Holdup Prompts City Search

A citywide search is underway for two men who burst into the Intourist Hotel just yards from the Kremlin, shot a policeman in the legs, forced some 50 people to the floor and cleaned out an exchange office and a jewelry store, before making a clean getaway in broad daylight.

Crime experts Thursday released four composite sketches of the suspects, even though only two men committed the crime. Police spokesman Vladimir Zubkov said there were so many witnesses, sketch artists could not get a definitive description of the two men.

The robbery began Wednesday at about 12:40 p.m. at 3 Tverskaya Ulitsa, steps away from Red Square and the Kremlin, Zubkov said. The men, both dressed in civilian wear, came into the lobby; one pulled out a pistol, the other drew an automatic rifle, newspaper reports said. Events began in earnest after they fired a shot into the ceiling.

As guests around them hit the carpet, one robber broke in the window of the exchange office operated by the 21st Century Development Bank, and the other approached an adjacent jewelry store.

Zubkov would not elaborate on the crimes, but according to the business newspaper Kommersant, one of the robbers entered the exchange office and demanded the clerk fill a bag with money. The clerk insisted that the exchange had no money, and ultimately opened an empty safe at the bandit's request.

Dissatisfied, the robber began gathering up what little money was on the desk. As he busied himself, the clerk grabbed her purse and ran. Zubkov said the robber got away with about 20 million rubles ($3,980) and $3,000.

At the same time, the other robber stormed the jewelry kiosk. According to Thursday's Kommersant Daily, he handed the salesgirl a plastic bag and began pointing to the pieces of jewelry he wanted. Kommersant said he chose Belgian gold creations encrusted with precious gems, all items that had been put on sale the day before.

As the robbery progressed, Moscow Police Major Kirill Parmyonov, a plainclothes officer posted at the hotel, approached and confronted the robbers who fired at him, injuring him in both legs. Parmyonov is now in satisfactory condition in a local hospital, police said.

As they left, the two set off a smoke bomb to cover their escape. According to a report in Segodnya on Thursday, the white smoke that emerged from the grenade-like device was an anti-frost and pesticide spray for fruit trees.

The robbers took one more step to assure their speedy escape, Zubkov said: "They covered themselves with a girl from the hotel as they left the lobby." The two fled in an unidentified car and, as of Thursday afternoon, were still at large.

Kommersant Daily wrote that the entire event was caught on film by the hotel's security cameras, although Zubkov said there were no tapes of the incident. "If we had a video cassette we wouldn't have bothered with the composite sketches," Zubkov said.

Gennady Krasnov, the hotel's deputy general director, would not say whether additional security measures would be taken as a result of the robbery. "That's our problem, and we're not going to write about it," he said.

Thursday afternoon, visitors were wandering in and out of the hotel lobby unhindered.

"Nobody is protected against people who want to come in to rob a bank, not even in the West," Krasnov said. The Intourist is renowned for its collection of security guards who loiter around the entrance, a holdover from the days when no one was allowed into a Soviet hotel without a visitor's pass.

"We've never had an incident like this before," Krasnov said, adding that the losses were minimal. "Not a single guest lost a single thing."

The hotel itself seemed hardly to lose a step. Fresh carpeting covered the spot where the smoke bomb exploded, and business proceeded as usual. The evening shift of employees -- people who were not working at the time of the robbery -- were all at work Thursday.

But the patch on the carpeting did little to mask the staff's collective sense of alarm. After seeing television reports of the incident Wednesday night, employees first called the hotel and then called each other.

"Of course we're afraid," said bartender Viktor Khudyakov. "We asked the director for bulletproof vests, and he just laughed."

Khudyakov took some comfort, though, in his strategic location. He's got a heavy bar in front of him, and a shelf of heavy bottles behind. In addition, he guesses that a bar is a less likely target for robbery than a jewelry store.