Russian police arrest three after dramatic Moscow shootout

Moscow police detained three members of a criminal gang suspected of stealing more than 30 million rubles ($546,000) after a dramatic shootout close to a busy rail station (AFP Photo/Olga Maltseva)

Moscow (AFP) - Moscow police said Thursday they had detained three members of a criminal gang suspected of stealing more than 30 million rubles ($546,000) after a dramatic shootout close to a busy rail station.

Officers from the criminal investigation department and special forces detained "three members of an armed criminal group" that specialised in robbing couriers ferrying bags of cash, police said in a statement released after the operation on Wednesday.

Police officers fired their service pistols as they attempted to capture the suspects parked close to the Paveletsky mainline rail station.

Witnesses posted photographs on social media of bullet holes in the windows of a nearby office block.

Russian media compared the shootout in broad daylight in a public place to a scene from the mafia-ridden 1990s and questioned why the police was allowed to fire shots that could have hit a passerby.

The suspects managed to flee at high speed in their stolen black Mercedes SUV prompting a car chase with police. One suspect was detained after running into nearby Danilov monastery, the seat of the Orthodox Church's Patriarch, video footage released by police showed.

During the chase, the suspects crashed into a police car and collided with five other cars, police said.

In their last crime, the alleged robbers had grabbed more than 8 million rubles ($146,000) in an attack on a cash courier in May, police said.

They are believed to have carried out a series of attacks on cash couriers in the last year and a half, taking more than 30 million rubles.

"The detained gang members are suspected of more than 20 robberies," the Moscow police spokesman Andrei Galiakberov told TASS state news agency.

Police confiscated two handguns that fire rubber bullets modified to make them more deadly, as well as knives, masks and a wig and a sledgehammer possibly used to break car windscreens.

Russian television said the men came from Moldova, Georgia and Tajikistan. They are being questioned and have not so far been charged.

Police said the officers involved would receive awards.