Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Make First Arrest in 'Rambo' Attacks

ReutersPolice standing near a road to Vladivostok on Thursday. They were on the lookout after a series of attacks on police.

Primorye police on Thursday detained a first suspect in their hunt for a gang of "Russian Rambos" who have staged a series of attacks against the police in a self-described war on police corruption.

The suspect, Roman Savchenko, 18, faces charges of illegal weapons trafficking and an attempt on the life of a law enforcement officer, said investigators in the far eastern region.

But an unidentified law enforcement official told Primamedia.ru, a local news site, that the suspect was a supporter, not a member, of the gang. He was detained carrying a bag of food, the report said.

Savchenko's father, Vladimir, urged the police to show restraint in their hunt for suspects and asked to be allowed to speak with any detainees.

“They must be taken alive so the court and investigators can find out what forced them to act this way,” Vladimir Savchenko said, RIA-Novosti reported.

He did not say whether his son was a member of the gang.

Before the arrest, media reports identified the younger Savchenko as a gang member.

The gang's leader is believed to be Roman Muromtsev, 32, a former army officer and a veteran of the Chechen campaign, and the group is thought to include five to 30 members.

Mug shots of all suspected gang members have been published on local news web sites, but an Investigative Committee spokeswoman said Thursday that the photo of Muromtsev depicted another man — an ex-convict living in Vladivostok who has the same name as the suspected gang leader.

The gang, reportedly equipped with guns and portable radios, is suspected of killing a policeman and wounding several others in May and June.

If captured and convicted, gang members face up to life in prison. More than 150 police officers have been deployed to capture them.

An online statement credited to the gang calls their attacks revenge for the “lawlessness” of the police. Savchenko's father said members of the gang have been beaten by the police illegally.

Savchenko's son and two other suspects are thought to be ultranationalists who have refocused their anger from dark-skinned migrants to the police.

The gang has won sympathy from many locals, who view it as Russia's answer to Rambo, the hero of the "First Blood" action film who fought corrupt police.

Kommersant reported Wednesday that the gang might be trying to avenge the bust of an illegal timber trading racket and is using anti-corruption rhetoric as a cover-up.