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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

18 Tourists Held

BANGKOK, Thailand -- A tour operator denied Friday that he is holding 18 Russian tourists hostage at a Thailand beach resort because a Russian tour company owes him nearly $45,000.

"I am not a Moscow gangster," said European-Thai tours' director, Michael Kunz. "I am not holding them hostage. They go shopping and to the beach."

The tourists, including nine children unaccompanied by parents, are staying in Pattaya, south of Bangkok. An Itar-Tass report Friday called them hostages and said they were not being fed.

Kunz said the Siberian tour agency Open World owed him $39,000 from a tour in June. Open World's managing director, Ruslan Amerkhanov, promised he would send the payment with the current group of tourists, Kunz said, but they showed up without the money.