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Russia: Four Hostages Freed, Bus Proceeds To Airport

Moscow, 31 July 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Russian news agencies say two unidentified armed men, who today seized a bus with 40 people aboard, have released at least four hostages and were proceeding to an airport, as requested. The bus had been traveling from the town of Nevinnomyssk to Stavropol in southern Russia when it was seized by the hijackers early today. Police had blocked the bus and were negotiating with the gunmen, who reportedly shot the acting chief of the Nevinnomyssk police department, Viktor Tumanyants, during talks.

Russian agencies report that police allowed the hijackers to proceed to the Mineralnye Vody airport after they released at least two children and two women.

Igor Trubitsyn, spokesman for the Stavropol branch of the Federal Security Service, said the hijackers were demanding the release of five Chechens currently serving jail terms for a May 1994 bus hijacking in the same region.

A spokesman, Mairbek Vachagayev, for Chechen separatist President Aslan Maskhadov told Ekho Moskovy radio that they know nothing about the incident