A nearly 12-hour standoff in Ukraine on Tuesday finally ended after Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, bowed to a number of demands from alleged hostage-taker Maksim Krivosh. Among them: the public recommendation and endorsement of the 2005 documentary “Earthlings,” directed by Shaun Monson and narrated by Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix. The New York Times reports that Zelensky took to his Facebook page to share a plaintive message (since deleted): “Everybody watch the 2005 film ‘Earthlings.”
The ordeal began when Krivosh, a 44-year-old former convict who “used the nickname Maksim the Bad to post a manifesto and demands on Twitter,” took 13 people on a bus hostage “while armed with an automatic weapon and explosives.” The ordeal began on Tuesday morning, when Krivosh seized the bus and then barricaded himself and his hostages inside it in the city of Lutsk.
None of the hostages was injured during the ordeal, though bullet holes riddled the bus’ windows. NPR reports that “during the prolonged standoff, the gunman threw a grenade from the bus and fired shots at police.”
Krivosh’s demands, described as “rambling” by the Times, included a number of asks, like “the assertion that the government was a terrorist organization.” The Times reports that he also “asked that members of Parliament, ministers, and leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church post messages saying, ‘I am a legal terrorist.'”
He also demanded that Zelensky endorse the 2005 documentary which, per its IMDb synopsis, uses “hidden cameras and never-before-seen footage [and] chronicles the day-to-day practices of the largest industries in the world, all of which rely entirely on animals for profit.” Variety also notes that the film “compares speciesism to racism and sexism among humans.”
Krivosh also reportedly showed the documentary to the hostages during the standoff.
The Times reports that three hostages were released after Krivosh and Zelensky first made contact over the phone, with all hostages being released after the president posted his Facebook message, which was later deleted. Krivosh then surrendered to police.
Phoenix, an outspoken animal advocate, has often used his platform to promote his ideals. Earlier this year, another Phoenix-backed documentary, the pig-centric “Gunda,” made a splash at the Berlinale.