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Ukraine hostage crisis ends after president urges people to watch Joaquin Phoenix documentary

Gunman with criminal record held 13 people on bus hostage in city of Lutsk.
Image: An assailant, who seized a long-distance bus with 10 hostages, lies on the ground after police officers captured him in the city centre of Lutsk,
An assailant, who seized a long-distance bus with 10 hostages, lies on the ground after police officers captured him in the city centre of LutskAP

KYIV, Ukraine — A hostage crisis in Ukraine ended peacefully on Tuesday, with a gunman releasing 13 people he was holding after President Volodymyr Zelenskiy acceded to his demand to publish a video recommending the film “Earthlings.”

Police then arrested the hostage-taker, identified as Maksym Kryvosh, 44, and the president deleted his video.

“Earthlings” is 2005 documentary with actor Joaquin Phoenix about human’s use and dependence on animals.

Earlier, Kryvosh opened fire on police after seizing a bus in the Ukrainian city of Lutsk, which is around 250 miles west of the capital Kyiv, police said. A counter-terrorism investigation had been launched, they added.

The man threw a grenade at officers which failed to detonate, the National Police of Ukraine said in statement on the Telegram digital messaging application.

"I want to congratulate everybody who kept fighting for people's lives the whole day. Human life is precious, and we didn't lose anyone today," Zelenskiy wrote on Facebook.

Children and a pregnant woman were among the hostages, Kryvosh said in a phone interview to the NTA TV channel. He also demanded that the country's top law enforcement, judges, oligarchs, lawmakers, prime minister, and other officials including former President Petro Poroshenko publish videos saying they are the real terrorists.

Prior to the Zelenskiy's video Kryvosh released three hostages, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Twitter.

TV footage released during the incident showed empty streets cordoned off by people in military uniform, police cars and an armored personnel carrier, while pictures published on social media showed a small bus parked in the middle of an empty street. Two of its windows were smashed and the others covered with curtains.

Kryvosh is a citizen of Ukraine, who was born in Russia and spent more than 10 years in prisons for robbery, blackmailing, and illegal arms possession, according to Deputy Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko.

Gerashchenko said the gunman made demands on Twitter where he called himself Maksym Plokhoy, which translates as "Maksym the Bad One." Twitter suspended the account.

Viktor Kroshko, head of the Volyn Oblast Police Department, told a press conference that “he is generally unsatisfied with the political situation in the country."