Armed man releases bus hostages unharmed after standoff

Associated Press
·3-min read

UPDATE, 7AM WEDNESDAY, JULY 22: An “unstable” armed man who seized more than a dozen hostages on a long-distance bus in Ukraine’s western city of Lutsk was detained late Tuesday after a standoff that lasted for over 12 hours and all hostages were freed unharmed, officials said.

The assailant agreed to release the hostages following a 15-minute phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Zelenskiy’s deputy chief of staff Kyrylo Tymoshenko told reporters.

Shortly after the call, Zelenskiy posted a brief video message on his Facebook page to urge Ukrainians to watch “Earthlings,” a 2005 American documentary exposing humanity’s cruel exploitation of animals - as the hostage-taker had wanted.

Minutes later, the assailant walked out of the bus and surrendered to the police. Authorities said all 13 hostages he held were freed and no one was hurt.

EARLIER STORY: An armed man has seized a long-distance bus and taken several people in it hostage in northwestern Ukraine, launching an hours-long stand-off with police.

About 10 people are being held hostage, Ukraine's Security Service said in a Facebook statement.

Police earlier had put the number at 20. It was unclear how many people had been on board to start with, and whether any escaped.

Police sealed off the centre of Lutsk, a city 400km west of the capital Kyiv.

The assailant is armed and carrying explosives, police said. They said he threw a hand grenade that failed to explode at officers and shot at them at least twice during the still-ongoing siege.

An undated photo released by Ukrainian Police showing Maksim Krivosh holding a gun.
An undated photo released by Ukrainian Police showing Maksim Krivosh holding a gun. Krivosh is identified as the man who has taken some 20 people hostage inside a bus in the city centre of Lutsk.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said negotiations with the man are under way.

"We're doing everything to free the hostages," Zelenskiy told reporters.

The man called the police himself at 9.25 am on Tuesday after taking control of the bus and introduced himself as Maksim Plokhoy, Deputy Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko said on Facebook.

In a Telegram account reportedly belonging to him, Plokhoy apparently admitted to taking people on the bus hostage, said that "the state has always been and always is the first terrorist" and demanded that top Ukrainian officials release statements on their social media pages calling themselves terrorists.

According to Gerashchenko, police have identified the man as Maksim Krivosh, a 44-year-old Ukrainian born in Russia.

Krivosh had allegedly been convicted twice on a wide range of charges - robbery, fraud, illegal arms handling - and spent a total of 10 years behind bars.

The bus with hostages on a road in the downtown of the Western Ukrainian city of Lutsk, Ukraine.
The bus with hostages on a road in the downtown of the Western Ukrainian city of Lutsk. Source: AAP

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov travelled to Lutsk to supervise operations.

Ukrainian media reported that gunshots were regularly heard at the scene. It wasn't immediately clear whether anyone has been injured.

According to reports, Krivosh tried to reach out to journalists through hostages and their phones, demanding that they spread the word about his demands and get more reporters to arrive to the scene.

Zelenskiy said earlier on Tuesday he is personally monitoring the situation.

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