Robbers held after 3-nation chase
KIEV, Ukraine -- A high-speed police chase across three countries has ended with the capture of a gang of bank robbers and the release of their two women hostages.
Ukrainian police arrested the three gunmen who had robbed a bank in Germany of $174,000 and taken two bank workers hostage after a two-day 150 kph police chase.
The silver getaway car was tracked by convoys of police cars and helicopters over more than 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) through Germany, Poland and Ukraine.
Sabine Stoehr, a spokeswoman for the German embassy in the Ukrainian capital, said the robbers were arrested close to the western Ukrainian town of Rivne some 324 kilometres (201 miles) east of Kiev.
The remaining 25-year-old woman hostage was released but her condition was not immediately known. Earlier, a 39-year-old woman hostage escaped when the gunmen stopped to buy petrol.
The robbers traveled across Germany, all of Poland and into Ukraine before they were stopped.
Polish Interior Minister Krysztof Janik, told Polish Radio that Poland had allowed the robbers to pass undisturbed because they wanted to save the hostages first of all.
"We could have stopped them many times, but the question is at what price," Janik said in the radio interview. "We chose the health and life of innocent people."
He said shooting at a car driving at 150 kilometres (92 miles) per hour would have been "unacceptable."
On Tuesday, the masked men robbed a bank in the northwestern German town of Uelzen and took two employees of the Sparkasse Bank hostage after forcing the bank manager to hand over money.
One of the women later escaped during a refueling stop near the southeastern Polish city of Lublin, Polish police said.
Sabine Stoehr of the German Embassy in Kiev said the robbers took about 200,000 euros (dlrs 174,000) from the bank.
One of the women hostages escaped at a petrol station near Piaski, eastern Poland. She was taken into police care and was said to be unhurt.
Describing the escape in Poland of one of the hostages, a witness told private Radio Zet: "I saw the robbers tell one of the captives to get out of the car to fill it up with gas. The woman ran away and hid behind a petrol pump.
"Then police came up and they drove away," the unnamed witness said.
The raiders had escaped after holding a gun to the head of one of three hostages they had earlier seized in the bank. The third hostage, the head of the bank branch, was released unharmed.
One of the gunmen was said to be an eastern European.
In a similar incident in 1988, bank robbers killed two female hostages they had seized in the town of Gladbeck after holding them captive during a two-day motorway chase with police.
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