Shots fired as bus passengers taken hostage in western Ukraine
2020-07-21 | Since 2 Month
Ukrainian police were holding tense negotiations Tuesday with a former convict armed with explosives who took 20 people hostage in a bus and claimed to have planted a remote-controlled device in the western city of Lutsk.
Police cordoned off the centre of Lutsk, 400km (250 miles) from the capital Kyev, and asked residents not to leave their homes or places of work.
Police said security services surrounded the bus after two shots were fired from it.
"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.
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.
Twitter deleted an account where posts under Plokhoy's name claimed he was armed, including with explosives.
The tweets described him as "anti-system" and made demands of the authorities. The interior ministry said it believed the accounts were genuine.
President Volodymyr Zelensky described the hostage taking as "disturbing".
"Every effort is being made to resolve the situation without casualties," he said.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov arrived in the region to coordinate the response the crisis.
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.