A student has attacked a vocational college in the Russian-annexed peninsula, Crimea, killing at least 17 people before killing himself, according to Russia’s Investigative Committee.
The committee said CCTV footage showed 18-year-old student Vladislav Roslyakov entering Kerch Polytechnic College with a rifle on Wednesday and firing at students.
“Currently, there are 17 known deaths. The initial inspection of the bodies suggests that they died from gunshot wounds,” the committee said in a statement.
The incident in Kerch, a city of 147,000 people, was initially reported as a gas explosion and a possible “terrorist” attack. But the committee later said it was a case of mass murder.
More than 40 people were injured in the attack.
Anastasia Yenshina, a 15-year-old student at the college, said she was in a toilet on the ground floor of the building with some friends when she heard the sound of an explosion.
“I came out and there was dust and smoke, I couldn’t understand, I’d been deafened,” she told the Reuters news agency.
“Everyone started running … I saw a girl lying there. There was a child who was being helped to walk because he could not move on his own. The wall was covered in blood.
Olga Grebennikova, director of the vocational college, told KerchNet TV that men armed with automatic rifles burst into the college and “killed everyone they saw”.
Grebennikova, who said she had left the grounds shortly before the attack occurred, said students and staff were among victims.
The local Crimean government announced three days of mourning following the incident and the Kremlin announced it would investigate the attack.
Russian President Vladimir Putin deplored the attack as a “tragic event” and offered condolences to the victims’ families at a news conference in Sochi.
Russia annexed the peninsula in March 2014, after a referendum in which the population of Crimea chose to become part of Russia.
The annexation followed the overthrow of pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich after weeks of protests that descended into a violent conflict.
Later pro-Russian separatists took over parts of Donbass in southeastern Ukraine.
Since then, fighting in that region has killed more than 13,000 people, including about 3,000 civilians.
The so-called Minsk agreements – brokered by Germany and France and signed by Russia and Ukraine in 2015 – have slowed the conflict, but sporadic fighting continues.
Over the past few years, Russian security agencies have arrested several Ukrainians accused of plotting terror attacks in Crimea, but no attacks have occurred.