LUTSK, Ukraine -- A tense hostage situation on a bus in western Ukraine has ended without casualties after a standoff with police and after President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke with the hostage-taker by phone and agreed to one of his demands.
Police arrested the suspected hostage taker, whom the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) identified as 44-year-old Maksym Kryvosh and said he had propagated "extremist views."
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Kryvosh was armed with guns and a grenade, adding to the concerns of security forces during the 12-hour standoff.
The hostages were freed after an armored personnel carrier with special forces pulled up alongside the bus around 9:30 p.m., seconds after an explosion created a bright flash near the vehicle, a video posted by an onlooker showed:
Officials said Kryvosh was a two-time convict who also went by the last name "Plokhoy," which means "bad" in Russian.
Police said Kryvosh ranted against "the system" in his negotiations, called the country's oligarchs and officials "terrorists," and demanded that people watch the 2005 documentary film Earthlings about the suffering endured by animals at farms, research labs, and other locations.
In response, Zelenskiy posted a short video on Facebook recommending that people watch the documentary. Local media said Kryvosh was following the news about his hostage-taking on his smartphone.
Zelenskiy deleted the video after Kryvosh's capture. He said he had spoken to Kryvosh for around seven to 10 minutes and persuaded him to release three of the hostages, including a pregnant woman. Zelenskiy then agreed to publish the short video.
"We agreed that he would release three people and after that I will record a video," Zelenskiy said.
"I congratulate all those who fought all day for the release of the people in Lutsk and, in fact, for their lives," Zelenskiy said in a statement after the hostages were freed.
Regional police chief Yuriy Kroshko said earlier in the day that Kryvosh had told police that he was armed and had a large amount of explosives with him.
He also claimed to have placed a bomb at another site in the city and said he could detonate it remotely.
The SBU published a picture of Kryvosh lying face down with security personnel standing over him after his arrest. Avakov said an accomplice was detained in the eastern city of Kharkiv.