Armed man seizes bus, holds 10 people hostage in Ukraine


LUTSK, Ukraine (AP) – An armed man seized a long-distance bus and took people in it hostage in northwestern Ukraine on Tuesday launching an hours-long standoff with police, Ukrainian authorities said.

About 10 people are currently 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 center of Lutsk, a city 400 kilometers (250 miles) 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.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said negotiations with the man are currently underway. “We’re doing everything to free the hostages,” Zelenskiy told reporters.

The man called the police himself at 9:25 a.m. (0625 GMT) 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.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov traveled 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.

This story has been corrected to reflect the accurate time conversion – the assailant called the police at 9:25 a.m. (0625 GMT). The previous version of the this story said he called the police at 9:25 a.m. (0725 GMT).

In this image take from video, the scene as streets are closed off, with an armoured security vehicle and police car, right, after an armed man seized a bus and took some 20 people hostage in the city centre of Lutsk, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) west of Kyiv, Ukraine on Tuesday July 21, 2020. The assailant is armed and carrying explosives, according to a Facebook statement by Ukrainian police. Police officers are trying to get in touch with the man and they have sealed off the area. (AP Photo)