Passengers freed after 12-hour hostage drama in Ukraine

Updated 22 Jul 2020

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Policemen (bottom right) take up positions during an operation to rescue passengers of an intercity bus who were taken hostage by an armed man in the Ukrainian city of Lutsk on Tuesday.—AFP
Policemen (bottom right) take up positions during an operation to rescue passengers of an intercity bus who were taken hostage by an armed man in the Ukrainian city of Lutsk on Tuesday.—AFP

KIEV: The siege of a bus with 13 passengers by an armed man on Tuesday ended with all the hostages freed, Ukrainian police said.

“The hostages are freed! The man who took hostages and kept them on a bus in Lutsk has been detained,” the interior ministry posted on Telegram.

The crisis lasted over 12 hours with police managing to first escort three people from the vehicle after lengthy and tense negotiations with the perpetrator.

The SBU security service said a total of 13 hostages were freed and no civilians were harmed in course of the incident.

“The terrorist has been identified as Maksym Kryvosh, who disseminated extremist views,” the service said in a statement.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov posted photos and videos on his Twitter of people being escorted by security officers and a man in jeans lying face down on the asphalt with hands behind his back.

Earlier, police cordoned off the centre of the city of over 200,000, some 400 kilometres from the capital Kiev, and asked residents not to leave their homes or places of work.

The hostage-taker also fired shots at a police drone that flew over the bus and threw an explosive package into the street, deputy interior minister Anton Gerashchenko said.

“The attacker threw a grenade from the bus, which, fortunately, did not detonate”, a police statement said.

Video footage and pictures published by local media showed armed police around 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 that could be detonated remotely.

The hostage-taker initially made contact with the police and identified himself as Maksym Plokhoy — a pseudonym which translates to “Bad Maxim” — Gerashchenko said.

Gerashchenko later identified the man as 44-year-old Maksym Kryvosh.

Kryvosh previously spent around 10 years in prison on charges including fraud and illegal handling of weapons, Gerashchenko said.

He was believed to have undergone psychiatric treatment, police said, but Interior Minister Arsen Avakov later denied this information.

Gerashchenko said earlier that law enforcement was talking with Kryvosh in the hopes of resolving the crisis “through negotiations”.

The situation is “tense”, as the attacker is not allowing food and water to be handed to the hostages and does not let them go to the toilet, according to Gerashchenko. Twitter deleted an account where posts under Plokhoy’s name claimed he was armed, including with bombs.

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

Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2020