Man who took hostages wanted to impress ex-lover



Moscow: A former Russian army commando who took several hostages in a city in southern Russia, demanding money, a getaway car and a pizza, wanted to impress his ex-girlfriend, an official said.

The 17-year-old girl was among the three people held at gunpoint by Alexander Kuptsov for several hours in a college in Astrakhan.

Kuptsov, who threatened to blow the place up, was dubbed the "pizza terrorist" by Russian media, because a pizza and a soda were initially his only demands.

But after finishing his snack, he asked for a modest ransom of 50,000 rubles ($1,630) and an SUV, said Andrei Khigai, spokesman for the Astrakhan branch of the Investigative Committee.

He also asked for some anti-anxiety medicine, Lifenews.ru online tabloid said, without specifying whether he was given any.

Police eventually stormed the classroom where the "pizza terrorist" was holed up in and detained him. A bomb he claimed to be carrying proved to be a fake and his gun only a toy.

No one was harmed during the standoff, and Kuptsov's girlfriend was detained along with him.

The woman "was trying to calm him down, there was a certain tenderness between them" during the siege, the other hostages told Moskovsky Komsomolets.

The man also mistreated one of the hostages, a 63-year-old female English teacher whose class his girlfriend reportedly flunked, the daily said.

However, the spokesman said the teenage girl was released from custody.

"He wanted to skip town with her, but she was refusing to go with him, so he came to pick her up," the spokesman said.

"She did not mind leaving with him in theory, but couldn't work up the resolve to do it, and she never expected him to handle the matter in this way," he said.

The woman's identity remains unclear and has not been released by investigators.

Many reports identified her as Natalya Shevelyova, but a video of the siege on Lifenews.ru showed a teenager being handcuffed who says her name is Tatiana Likhobabina.

Kuptsov was a sniper in the army's special forces and served a prison term for theft after discharge, the Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid said.

Various reports put his age at between 25 and 30.

He could go back to prison for another 15 years if charged and convicted of hostage-taking.

IANS