Gunman hijacks Ukraine bus and threatens to blow everything up

Ukrainian troops ended a bus hijacking by an armed ex-convict yesterday and freed the hostages that he had been holding at gunpoint all day.

The man took 13 passengers hostage after climbing aboard the bus in the city of Lutsk in the morning rush hour. He threw explosives out at one stage and threatened to blow everything up.

Video shot of the end of the incident showed what appeared to be an explosion behind the bus before an armoured personnel carrier sped up alongside it. The soldiers then dismounted, quickly arrested the hijacker and moved the hostages to safety.

The man, identified as Maksim Krivosh, 44, had tossed at least one grenade or homemade bomb out of the bus, but nobody was injured. He also tried to shoot down a monitoring drone sent by the Ukrainian security service.

One of the hostages phoned a local news website and said that the attacker was demanding a video conversation with President Zelensky. Mr Zelensky did speak to the hijacker by telephone and secured the release of an elderly woman, a pregnant woman and a teenage boy.

Before the hostages were freed the president had acquiesced to one of the hostage-taker’s demands. Krivosh told Mr Zelensky to make a video calling on people to watch the 2005 American documentary film Earthlings, which was narrated by Joaquin Phoenix. He complied, putting a six-second video online saying just that. He removed the video as soon as the hostages were released.

Anton Gerashchenko, the deputy interior minister, had said earlier that the attacker was refusing to allow food or water to be passed to the people on the bus. He probably watched too many films about the capture of hostages and is saying that if anyone comes close to the bus then he will blow it up, he said.

Maksim Krivosh, or Maksim the Bad, as he introduced himself to police, said he wanted judges and ministers to admit on social media they were terrorists

Several windows of the bus were smashed out. Some media reported that there had been a second explosion. Police said that the hijacker had expressed frustration with Ukraine’s system on social media.

It was reported that the man had telephoned police and introduced himself as Maksim Plokhoy, or Maksim the Bad. A social media account in that name showed a picture and video of a man wearing a black beret and holding an automatic weapon. The accompanying text said that he was armed with automatic weapons, grenades and two bombs, and had placed a third explosive in the city in a busy area.

He said that everything will be blown up if his wishes were not met. His demand was for senior government officials, judges, ministers and security bosses to each upload a video message to social media admitting that they were terrorists.

Happy anti-system day, he added in a short video address. Don’t fool yourselves. Celebrate the truth.

Initial reports suggested there were 20 hostages involved, but the security service later revised that to about ten.

Mr Gerashchenko said that Krivosh was born in the Orenburg region of Russia and had spent a total of about ten years in a penal colony for two serious crimes. He was registered as living in Dubno, 30 miles south of Lutsk, in Ukraine. Acquaintances said that he was known as a peaceful advocate for animal rights.

Video images taken in central Lutsk showed two men, apparently snipers, on a roof overlooking the scene of the hostage drama. Dozens of uniformed soldiers were seen moving into position on the ground.

Arsen Avakov, the interior minister, flew to the scene to take charge of the operation. We have contact with the person who seized the people, he told reporters. We are talking to him, there are negotiations.

The hostage-taker seized the bus at 9.30am yesterday. He appeared to be using social media in real time. He made some of the hostages call their relatives from their mobile telephones and then took the phones off them and issued demands that reporters be brought to the scene.

Yury Butusov, a journalist, said he had spoken briefly to the hijacker, adding: He said he had weapons and explosives.

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