Saturday, May 12, 2007

Hostage taker at Russian embassy in Costa Rica surrenders

Costa Rican police escort a gunman and a hostage, both in yellow, after the gunman surrendered at the Russian Embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica, Friday May 11, 2007. A 20-year-old Kazakhstan native turned himself over to police on Friday, ending a three-hour standoff with police and safely releasing a man he had been holding at the Russian Embassy in Costa Rica, police said. The police did not confirm which of the two men was the hostage. (AP Photo)San Jose, Costa Rica (Itar-Tass) - Friday’s incident at the Russian embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica has been resolved peacefully, and the armed man who penetrated into the building, agreed to give himself up to the police.

“Nobody was harmed during the incident and the Russian diplomatic mission suffered no significant damage,” Russia’s ambassador to Costa Rica, Valery Nikolayenko, told Itar-Tass over the telephone. He thanked the Costa-Rican authorities for effective cooperation in resolving the incident.

The troublemaker agreed to surrender and be handcuffed as a result of negotiations, in which his parents took part.

According to the version offered by the Russian diplomats, the incident occurred shortly after noon during a reception at the embassy’s consular office. Two visitors quarreled over a cash debt. One of them carried a handgun. Holding the alleged debtor at gunpoint he said he wanted his money back, and then locked himself up in the reception room, in fact taking the other man hostage.

According to the information available at this point the attacker was identified as Roman Bogdanyants, 20, whose family had moved to Costa Rica from Kyrgyzstan about a year ago. Starting life from scratch away from the home country proved not so easy. Some financial problems emerged.

A family friend, Artur Mitiniani, told Channel 7 news that the family had lost $30,000 because of problems with the Russian citizen whom Bogdanyants met at the embassy.

“It is very good the incident was resolved peacefully and nobody was hurt. Both men have been taken to the police and the details and background of the incident is being investigated,” Nikolayenko said. “All embassy staff demonstrated self-control and courage. We shall see what we should do to improve security at the embassy.”

This is not the first case armed people manage to penetrate into foreign embassies in Costa Rica. Some of the previous incidents were not without casualties.

In July 2004, an armed guard, angry about his transfer to a different job, entered the Chilean embassy in San Jose to take diplomats hostage. The incident had a tragic outcome. The attacker shot dead three of the ten hostages and then committed suicide before the building began to be stormed.

In 1993 a group of five gunmen penetrated into the Nicaraguan embassy in Costa Rica to seize over 20 hostages. That crisis was settled without losses.

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