At least 18 people died and scores more were injured at a Crimea college on Wednesday after a student allegedly detonated an explosive before opening fire with a hunting rifle.
The attack took place at a polytechnic school in the Crimean town of Kerch, a strategic city from where a new bridge connects the contested peninsula with mainland Russia.
The Kremlin-appointed head of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, said the suspect was an 18-year-old student at the college.
He was later identified in the Russian press as Vladislav Roslyakov, a student who had reportedly obtained a hunting license – allowing him to purchase hunting rifles and shotguns – early last month.
A photo of Roslyakov weilding a rifle in a campus stairwell was widely circulated on social social media after the attack.
Reports suggest that, beside detonating an explosive, Roslyakov opened fire on fellow students and teachers. According to Mr Aksyonov, the shooter killed himself during the attack.
Videos from the scene circulated on Russian social media show terror and confusion on the campus. One video shared on a popular Telegram channel, Mash, featured a recording of a woman telling her friend about the explosion and possible shooters.
“The college was blown up,” the unidentified woman began in her video, “We ran and kids just laid there. My friend was killed right before my eyes. I saw her fall and she didn’t move any more. I saw how the boys just fell.”
Other unconfirmed reports on Russian social networks and in the local media feature similar accounts of possible shooters on the campus of the polytechnic college – an institute that specialises in vocational training for teenagers.
School shootings are relatively rare in Russia, where access to firearms is tightly restricted. But attacks are not unheard of using other types of weapons.
In January, 15 students were injured when two teenagers attacked their peers at a school in Perm as part of a Columbine inspired attack.
Russia’s investigative committee reported that it had opened a criminal case under articles pertaining to terrorism. The incident was being treated as mass murder. Roslyakov’s age was initially reported as 22, but he is now reported to be an 18-year-old fourth year student at the school.
President Vladimir Putin held a brief press conference Wednesday afternoon to call for a moment of silence for the victims and said investigators are now working to understand Roslyakov’s motive.
An unidentified student told the RBC news agency that the shooter “very much hated the school because of its evil teachers”.
Roslyakov had hinted he planned to “take revenge on them,” the source, who claimed to be the shooter’s friend, was quoted as saying.
Crimea, formally recognised by the international community as part of Ukraine, has been under Russian control since 2014 following Moscow’s annexation of the Black Sea Peninsula. Kerch is located on the eastern tip of Crimea, where a bridge to the Russian mainland recently opened.
A video published by local news outlet Kerch.com.ru showed the head of the school describing the events to someone on the phone as another Beslan – referring to a horrific 2004 terrorist siege on a school in North Ossetia that resulted in the death of over 300 people, many of them children.
“They ran across the second floor with machine guns, well I don’t know what they had, opening rooms and killing everyone that they could find, everyone they came across,” the woman, identified as Olga Grebennikova, said in the video.