A bizarre message by Ukraine’s president promoting a Joaquin Phoenix film appears to have helped bring a hostage situation to a peaceful end.
A man armed with weapons and explosives released all 13 hostages on Tuesday evening, more than 11 hours after seizing a bus in the city of Lutsk.
It came after President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke to him by phone and agreed to post a message about a 2005 animal rights film narrated by Phoenix.
He posted a six-second message on Facebook telling people to watch the 2005 documentary – called Earthlings.
The post was later deleted but it appeared to help resolve the stand-off.
President Zelenskiy said he had persuaded the man – 44-year-old Maksim Krivosh – to first release three of the hostages, including a pregnant woman.
“We agreed that he would release three people and after that I will record a video,” Mr Zelenskiy said.
The president said he had the option of storming the bus, but wanted to avoid bloodshed.
“We have the result – everyone is alive,” said Mr Zelenskiy.
Krivosh had threatened to blow up the bus and detonate explosives in a crowded area, police said.
He also fired several shots at a police drone and refused offers to deliver water and food to the hostages.
Interior minister Arsen Avakov said a suspected accomplice was detained in the eastern city of Kharkiv.
In social media posts, Krivosh had demanded Ukrainian officials publish statements saying they were terrorists.
State security service the SBU posted a photo of his arrest and said the hostage taker had spread “extremist views”.
He had allegedly spent 10 years in prison after being convicted twice on several charges, ranging from robbery and fraud to illegal arms handling.
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