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Russian security agent died from heart attack in hostage incident

December 21, 1997 GMT

MOSCOW (AP) _ A top Russian security agent died of a heart attack after offering himself as a hostage in place of a Swedish diplomat, Russia’s security chief said Saturday.

The agent, Col. Anatoly Savelyev, 51, was also struck in the leg by a ricocheting bullet during gunfire that killed the hostage-taker and ended a six-hour standoff at the Swedish Embassy.

But the wound was not life-threatening, and doctors said Savelyev’s death was caused by a heart attack, said Nikolai Kovalyov, director of the Federal Security Service, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB.


``It is the doctor’s definite opinion ... that he had a heart attack,″ he said at a news conference.

Kovalyov said snipers opened fire early Saturday after the attacker, who was armed with a grenade and a pistol, began changing his demands and it became clear that force was ``the only possible″ way to end the standoff.

The hostage-taker seized Swedish trade counselor Jan-Olof Nystrom as he entered the Swedish Embassy about 7 p.m. Friday. He demanded $370,000 and a flight out of Russia. His reasons were unclear.

Savelyev, one of Russia’s most experienced hostage negotiators, replaced Nystrom in the besieged Volvo sedan after more than four hours of tense negotiations.

A veteran of Russia’s elite Alpha commando force, Savelyev served in most of the country’s hot spots during the past 20 years. He had successfully negotiated resolutions to a number of similar situations, including the hijacking of a passenger plane from Magadan earlier this month.

A few hours later, Savelyev told his colleagues he was feeling unwell, news reports said, and a medic entered the car. The medic, Dmitry Azovsky, told the NTV network that Savelyev was unconscious and seriously ill.

As the hostage-taker, who called himself ``Alexei,″ helped the medic drag Savelyev from the car, a sniper fired and wounded him.

The attacker fired back, news reports said, and when the medic was out of the way security forces unleased a barrage of gunfire. The gunman was killed and Savelyev struck in the leg. He died later at a hospital.

The identity of the hostage-taker remained unclear Saturday. A passport was found on his body, but Kovalyov said investigators doubt it belonged to him.

President Boris Yeltsin praised Savelyev in a condolence message to his family and colleagues.

``The nobility and courage of Anatoly Savelyev demonstrates that true heroes and real patriots are working in our security agencies,″ Yeltsin said.