FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy gestures during an open-air news conference Photograph:( Reuters )
In a move to secure the hostages' release, Zelenskiy said he spoke to Kryvosh for seven to 10 minutes and agreed to one of his demands, to promote the documentary 'Earthlings,' narrated by Hollywood actor Joaquin Phoenix.
All 13 people taken hostage on a bus in western Ukraine were freed unharmed on Tuesday (July 21) after President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke by phone with the hostage-taker and agreed to his demand to endorse a 2005 film starring Joaquin Phoenix.
Police arrested the suspect, whom the state security service (SBU) identified as 44-year-old Maksym Kryvosh, who seized the bus in the city of Lutsk, saying he was armed with guns and explosives.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Kryvosh had served time in prison and the SBU said he had propagated "extremist views." Police said Kryvosh threatened to blow up the bus and detonate another explosive in a crowded area in the city.
In a move to secure the hostages' release, Zelenskiy said he spoke to Kryvosh for seven to 10 minutes and agreed to one of his demands, to promote the documentary "Earthlings," narrated by Hollywood actor Joaquin Phoenix.
Zelenskiy did so in a six-second clip posted on the presidential Facebook page, which was subsequently deleted.
The president said he had persuaded Kryvosh to first release three of the hostages, including a pregnant woman.
Zelenskiy had been given the option of launching an assault on the bus, but did not want to risk hostages dying during the attack.
Police had blocked off the city center with armed officers, cars and an armoured personnel carrier while they tried to persuade Kryvosh to free the hostages in a day-long standoff.
In posts on social media, Kryvosh had also demanded that senior Ukrainian officials publish statements saying that they were terrorists.