updated 2/23/2009 10:57:58 AM ET 2009-02-23T15:57:58

Police in central Russia were searching Sunday for suspects accused of stealing more than $1 million in cash in a highway robbery — one of the country's biggest armed robberies in years.

Two bank employees told authorities that assailants with automatic rifles blocked their car Saturday on a highway in Tula province south of Moscow and stole about 43 million rubles ($1.2 million) in cash at gunpoint, police said.

The alleged victims said two of the seven attackers had posed as traffic police, provincial police spokesman Sergei Yelinsky told the state-run Vesti-24 television.

Police were searching six Russian provinces including the one surrounding Moscow, it said.

Police said the money from First Processing Bank was allegedly being taken to Moscow from the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported.

Still, the report raised many questions.

The bank employees — a cashier and a driver — were traveling in a Toyota with no armed escort despite the large amount of cash, Vesti-24 reported. It said investigators were considering whether the employees themselves could have been behind the robbery.

An operator who answered the phone at the Moscow-based commercial bank said officials were not available to comment.

Russian media said it was the biggest armed robbery involving a Russian bank since May 2007, when attackers stole about 40 million rubles as well as gold and silver ingots from state bank Sberbank in the Siberian city of Chita. Two guards were killed in that robbery.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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