Ukraine hostage-taker surrenders, bus passengers unharmed


LUTSK, Ukraine (AP) – Ukrainian police say an armed man who seized hostages on a bus in the western city of Lutsk has been detained and all 13 people held have been freed unharmed.

The hostage-taker surrendered to police and was detained late Tuesday.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

An armed man seized a long-distance bus and took people in it hostage in northwestern Ukraine on Tuesday launching a more than 12-hour standoff with police, Ukrainian authorities said.

Police initially said there were 20 people on the bus, but Ukraine’s Security Service said later in the day that the assailant was holding about 10 hostages. Officials didn’t explain the discrepancy, and it was unclear how many people initially had been on the bus and whether any escaped.

Following the 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.

Officials didn’t say exactly how many hostages were still being held.

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. At one point, the assailant threw explosives out of a bus window, but no one was hurt. He also fired several shots at a police drone.

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 at the scene.

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

A policeman brings water for hostages contained in a bus after an armed man seized the long-distance bus and took some 10 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. (Ukrainian Police Press Office via AP)