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 were still 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, or whether any escaped.
Police sealed off the center of Lutsk, a city about 250 miles west of the capital Kyiv. The assailant was 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 were underway. "We're doing everything to free the hostages," Zelenskiy told reporters.
The man called the police himself at 9:25 a.m. (0225 Eastern) 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 had 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 was personally monitoring the situation.
Meanwhile, two explosive devices were disarmed at a market in Kyiv on Tuesday following an anonymous tip to the police, the Ukrainian capital's mayor said. Local police received a call Tuesday saying bombs were planted under two mobile kiosks at the site in northern Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko said on his Facebook page.
"Law enforcement officers and bomb specialists verified the information and found the dangerous objects. People were immediately evacuated. The perimeter around the kiosks was sealed by law enforcement and rescuers," Klitschko said, adding that the devices, placed between a car and the mobile kiosks, were disarmed.
Police in Kyiv said they were also checking information about possible explosives planted on a square near the Minska metro station, which is in close proximity to the market.
There was no immediate word on any possible connection between the explosives in Kyiv and the man holding hostages in Lutsk.
First published on July 21, 2020 / 5:04 AM
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