Video shows what happened next: As the trainer walked past the standing bear, it attacked, pushing the trainer to the ground and then climbing on top of him, all before another trainer rushed into the ring and began repeatedly kicking the creature.
“People started to jump up. A panic started. Everyone grabbed their kids and started running,” eyewitness Galina Guryeva said, according to video obtained by NBC News.
The Interfax news agency reported that authorities have opened a criminal investigation into whether the circus provided unsafe services, according to the Associated Press.
Lyudmila Misnik, the manager of the circus, told Russian media that the bear had been spooked by the flash from cellphone cameras, which spectators were told to turn off, reported the New York Times.
Misnik said both the trainer, Ruslan Solodyuk, and the 16-year-old, 660-pound brown bear were okay, and claimed that the rest of the circus program was not a “danger to spectators.”
Solodyuk told the Daily Storm that the bear, Yashka, is set to retire as a performer. The bear’s aggression, Solodyuk claimed, was due to old age and joint pain, which flares up seasonally.