Ukraine police free 13 hostages trapped on bus after standoff

Man armed with weapons and explosives took about 20 people hostage in the western city of Lutsk.

    Police said security services surrounded the bus after two shots were fired from it [Tetiana Hrishyna/Reuters]
    Police said security services surrounded the bus after two shots were fired from it [Tetiana Hrishyna/Reuters]

    Ukrainian police secured the release of all hostages seized on a bus in western Ukraine on Tuesday and detained the "unstable" hostage-taker.

    "The hostages have been released," police said in a statement. "A man who took hostages in Lutsk today and held them on a bus has been detained."

    Speaking to reporters after the drama ended, Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov described the assailant as an "unstable man who invented his own world".

    Following negotiations talks with the first deputy chief of national police, Yevhen Koval, the man released three of the hostages, including a pregnant woman. Koval also delivered water to the hostages.

    At one point the assailant fired his gun and a bullet narrowly missed Koval.

    Ukraine far-right militia tries to exploit martial law

    Shortly after, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted a brief video message on his Facebook page to urge Ukrainians to watch a film - as the hostage-taker had wanted.

    Minutes later, the man surrendered to police and authorities said all 13 hostages were freed.

    Police earlier cordoned off the centre of Lutsk, 400km (250 miles) from the capital Kyiv, and asked residents not to leave their homes or places of work.

    im????Police said security services surrounded the bus after two shots were fired from it.

    im????"The attacker threw a grenade from the bus, which fortunately did not detonate," a statement said.

    Video footage and images published by local media showed heavily armed police surrounding a blue-and-white bus with several windows shattered and its curtains drawn.

    The prosecutor general's office said the attacker claimed there was a separate explosive device located in a public place in the city of about 200,000 residents that could be detonated remotely.

    'Bad Maxim'

    The hostage-taker initially made contact with the police and identified himself as Maksym Plokhoy - a pseudonym that translates to "bad Maxim" - Deputy Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko said.

    im????Gerashchenko later said the man was identified as Maksym Kryvosh, 44, from Russia's Orenburg region.

    Kryvosh previously spent 10 years in prison on a variety of convictions including fraud and illegal handling of weapons, Gerashchenko said. He is believed to have undergone psychiatric treatment.

    Is Ukraine losing the war with Russia? - UpFront

    Twitter deleted an account where posts under Plokhoy's name claimed he was armed, including with explosives.

    im????The tweets described him as "anti-system" and made demands of the authorities. The interior ministry said it believed the accounts were genuine.

    President Zelenskyy described the hostage-taking as "disturbing".

    Ukraine, which has been fighting Russian-backed separatists since 2014, has been struggling with a proliferation of illegal weapons.

    Fighting broke out between Kyev forces and Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. More than 13,000 people have been killed in the fighting so far.

    SOURCE: News agencies