Maximal Action: An Essay by Maxim Plokhoi

Wherever you are, try to hear the birds singing.

Endless twelve hours have passed too quickly. He lit a cigarette, looked around in the bus: faces, eyes… what do they express? Everything but fear. It is time to leave now.

The early morning of July 21st, in the hotel room 430 was pretty calm. ‘I can’ and ‘I want’ fully charged his will, which had a tough challenge on that day. Every thought born out of faint-heartedness was detected and strangled. The arrows on the clock approached seven, a can of Redbull with a cigarette were finished for breakfast. He did not care anymore about the time on the clock, perhaps this happens with everyone, who dives into the ‘here and now’. The only time he needed, precisely a single moment of it, was the moment of clarity, the point of no return.

The web uploaded his video, where he appears with an AK-47 calling: ‘Happy Anti-System Day! Do not deceive yourself, celebrate the truth’.

He took three grenades from the closet and put them together with the gun in the backpack. A revolver and another training grenade were in the little shoulder bag. The third bag had everything else that could have been needed: from medicines to a mock bomb. The window in the room overlooked the central square – the place, where the action is set to take place, and granite Lesya Ukrainka [Ukrainian Poetess – Akmal] will be forced to witness it. Will she let him in? ‘Yes’, he said out loud.

The evening before he was asking himself questions such as whom and what should he remember in the last, perhaps, hours of his life? Some events, people… Not so many people, but dogs, whom he loved, and with the love of which he saved himself. ‘Do not limp’, he said to himself, and by the effort of will stopped thinking. Sleep had to be the answer to all questions.

The taxi arrived quickly. He did not leave the key from the room at the front desk, to make them think he is going to come back. There were only few people in the bus station; he sat on one of the benches along the platform. There were two conditions when choosing the transport: no children and at least ten passengers inside. He got on a couple of buses, but it was not what he needed. Half an hour later, a blue, transit bus ‘the Etalon’ with more passengers had arrived. He went to look inside and asked what time is the departure. It was perfect timing. With the bags he occupied two seats in back of the bus. ‘The Etalon’ drove off and the countdown now went on for minutes. As soon as the bus left the station, he hanged the automatic gun and the grenades on himself, the revolver was on the side and a bag with the mock bomb on top was put in the passage. The bus stopped and two people got on in medical masks. As soon as the bus moved again, he went to the driver and said: ‘The bus is mined, all stay where you are. Driver, go to the Central Square’ and shot up. All thirteen hostages heard it clearly, but could not yet understand, believe it. He wanted to think it was just a dream. He threw handcuffs to the driver and said: ‘Fasten your left hand to the wheel, turn to the Theater square, come close to the Lesya Ukrainka monument right in front of the police station and turn off the engine’. An old woman in the front seat started to wail and pray fervently, later he will give her a sedative pill. The driver asked to unfasten the handcuffs because his hand was too pressured – he unfasten. The doors were blocked from inside with plastic ties. It’s time to call the police.

I am Maxim Plokhoi, I have a bus full of people on the Theatre Square. I have grenades, a machine gun and a bomb with me. Another crowded place in the city is also mined. The video message with my demands is published on my social networks’ accounts. Nobody should be 50 meters around me’.

The demands uploaded to the internet were: the heads of the courts, prisons, police, Ukrainian intelligence service, Parliament and ministries of Defence and Justice, the prime-minister, the oligarchs and the heads of the churches (he named them all) to post a video, where they admit: ‘I am the real terrorist’; the president to post a video ‘all watch the film ‘Earthlings’.

He then told the hostages to call their families to ask them to engage with the media. First police cars stopped 20 meters away from the bus. Several indirect shots through the windows made the police understand the seriousness of what was happening. Later, prior to shooting, he will ask the hostages to cover their ears. A woman asked:

Release the child!’.
‘What child?’ – he asked in bewilderment.

She pointed with her gaze at the masked young lad who got on the bus at the bus stop. He was 15. ‘My son is 15 too’, he said and thought: ‘From 14 on, one can be jailed, then it is not a child anymore’.

The negotiator called for the first time. ‘Meet the demands or I will blow it up’, he growled into the phone.

He met the driver’s eyes in the mirror. Every day he is responsible for hundreds of passengers’ lives: they are also his hostages. And when they die because of him, no one dares to declare him a terrorist. He remembered his mother. Seven years have passed. That morning she left on the same ‘Etalon’ and died. What was thinking that voluntary hostage in her last minutes? Perhaps of her son, who had just three months to be released from the prison? He was watching covered bodies in a report from the scene of the accident on the barracks’ TV on that day. The state is the standard of lies and violence, where power is the driver; law-abiding citizens are voluntary hostages and offenders are violent hostages. Sometimes the buses crash into each other with hundreds and millions of victims, but drivers are not terrorists. Why is that so? Where is the justice to be taken? The answer is: to create your own! To create by the maximal action…

Phone calls returned him to reality. Reporters were bombarding him with questions. ‘Come here, look at and listen to’, he told them, realizing that the more cameras are around the less is the chance for the law enforcement to storm the bus. The General got into the role of a negotiator and started stalling. ‘Where is the president? I am waiting for his videomessage’, – that was, what the General heard.

A young woman was holding her stomach.

What?’, he asked.
‘I am pregnant, 4
th month’.

Visually nothing could be seen. He reassured her as best he could and offered some water and pills. The old woman became quiet: the pills worked. He noticed a shooter hiding 20 meters away. He threw one grenade with the pin half bent towards the shooter through the broken window and told to the General: ‘Send your men to clear it and remove the shooter, I will make sure the grenade explodes in 30 minutes’. The second grenade indeed exploded in half an hour. Hundred meters away from the bus a curious uniformed crowd got out of the police department; – ‘They got too relaxed’, he thought and fired with a short burst up. ‘Don’t shoot, we are doing everything possible! The president was briefed, the minister is here’, chattered the General.

Half of the day had passed; he heard some incomprehensible buzzing over the bus. Through a gap in the open hatch, he saw a drone hovering with a large camera lens. He fired four times from the gun and the revolver, not a single bullet hit. He realized it was a distraction; closed the hatches and looked around. He thought that, if there is an assault, there will be victims that are killed by the Special Forces, but they will say that he killed them. ‘I don’t want blood, I want truth. Do not fear.’ he said to the hostages and shortly added: “It is symbolic that we are right beside the monument to a woman who said ‘One who freed himself, shall be free”.

He chose a perfect place – for many hours the traffic in the centre was paralyzed and hundred meters away stands the cathedral, the theological seminary, where he came 28 years ago in search of the truth. Fifteen out these 28 years he spent in prisons. This cathedral, not the bus, should have been the scene of action, scene of his truth. Because of the lockdown, the cathedral was closed, but he could not wait anymore. He was telling all this to the hostages, they got curious, started asking questions and he was willing to answer them. He wanted them to understand him, to understand what he dared to understand. Last years he was asking himself a question, how to live a day if one knows it is the last one? It was necessary to answer this question, because he realized that the only way to live is to live as if every day is your last day, otherwise it is not worth to live, otherwise it is a lie. Today there was no lie; there was an awful truth. He wanted the hostages to become free of fear, not the fear of him – they did not fear him anymore, – but the fear of being honest.

They run out of water. He called the General and asked to bring some more. The police officer who brought food and water decided to stick his head in the bus to capture more information. A shot over his head brought him to his senses.

The hostages became more talkative and indignant: ‘is it really that hard for the president to record one video clip?’. The General said that the president is in Switzerland and having a reception afterwards, he was clearly stalling: more than 10 hours have passed.

All those serving sentences in camps and prisons of the state did not steal a hundredth part of what any of the oligarchs on his list did; tens of thousands of convicts combined did not kill, maim, or break the fate of as many as did it on ‘legal grounds’ every second of his list. Ministers, priests, politicians, oligarchs, jailers – they have millions of citizens as hostages, and the larger and stronger the state system, the more claims to world domination, – the greater ‘legal terrorist’ the state is. Ten hours have passed and no one of them called and said, ‘release one of the hostages and I will comply to your request’. The embassy of Switzerland received his call: ‘Tell the president that Plokhoi and the hostages are waiting for his videomessage’.

Man is not a king of the nature, he is its terrorist, the murderer of all living; this is what the film ‘Earthlings’ is about. The demand to the president was a priority. The demands to the others – rhetorical, i.e. self-sustained and not requiring a response, a reaction. Why he is doing that? ‘So I need’, his conscience was replying to that; it was conscience, which paralyzed his instinct of self-preservation and made the instinct of justice the main one. He reloaded the revolver, changed the clip of the machine gun. The sun was saying goodbye to the sky over the square. Everyone was breathing the air of uncertainty. He approached the window and was just going to fire a burst in the sky, but a sudden phone call stopped him. The General said that he is going to hand the phone to the president. ‘I will post the videomessage if you release three hostages’. He thought for a second and replied: ‘I am releasing three of them now, you post the message and after half an hour I get out unarmed and release everybody’. One could hear the president joyfully surprised. When the old woman, the adolescent and the pregnant were leaving the bus they heard his ‘I am sorry’; later he will say ‘I am sorry’ again to the rest of them.

Why did he decide to release everyone? He knew they needed more drastic actions, they needed blood; that wasn’t in his script. ‘I made it,’ he said aloud, and put the safety on the gun. ‘It will not take long until each of you will understand that you got more freedom inside you’, he said to the hostages.

It was a long way to this day, and just three steps left; ‘there is no death’, he thought stepping on the tired body of the square.

Maxim Plokhoi