An hours-long hostage siege ended in the Ukrainian city of Lutsk on Tuesday night after President Volodymyr Zelensky met one of the alleged gunman’s unusual demands – to endorse a 2005 documentary about humanity’s abuse of animals.
A man armed with a rifle and grenades hijacked a bus with 13 people on board on Tuesday morning, claiming he had placed explosives in the vehicle and in another remote location, which he could detonate remotely, according to security officials.
The man, identified by the authorities as 44-year-old Maksym Kryvosh and who used the nickname Maxim the Bad posted an “anti-system” manifesto on social media, demanding that dozens of government officials admit to being “terrorists,” among other things.
In the first hours of the siege, Kryvosh allegedly opened fire and threw a grenade at the police, according to the Ukraine Interior Ministry. The National Police of Ukraine later said its specialists had managed to defuse the grenade and it didn’t explode.
Zelensky spoke directly to the hostage-taker via phone, resulting in the release of three hostages, his press office said. Others were released after the Ukrainian president posted a short video on his official Facebook page saying: “Everybody watch the 2005 film ‘Earthlings.’”
The documentary, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, deals with the abuse and suffering of animals in industrial agriculture. Zelensky’s video was deleted after Krivosh surrendered and the hostages were released. There were no reports of deaths or injuries.
Zelensky later thanked the police for the successful operation and justified his decision to meet the hostage-taker’s demands by saying in a Facebook post that “human life is the most important value and we did not lose anyone.”
“The negotiations lasted for about 9 hours, everyone talked to him, from psychologists to special negotiators, but he wanted just one thing, his demands to be met, and kept threatening (the people),” Zelensky said in a video released by his press office late Tuesday.
“So we had a council and I wanted to speak to this man. Before that he spoke to everyone for about 10-15 seconds and then hung up but then we managed to talk for 7-10 minutes and reached an agreement that he will make the first move to release our citizens.”
Late on Tuesday, the Ukrainian interior minister Arsen Avakov said: “The film [Earthlings]… is a good one. But you don’t have to be so screwed up and cause such a terror for the entire country, you can just watch it without all that.”
On Wednesday Kryvosh was charged with terrorism, hostage-taking and illegal possession of weapons, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior. Interior ministry officials added that he had previously spent almost a decade in prison for fraud, extortion, illegal sale of firearms and explosives.
Kryvosh will also undergo a mental health assessment. CNN was unable to contact a lawyer or representative for him, and it was not immediately clear if he had been assigned counsel.