A student has attacked a vocational college in the Russian-annexed peninsula Crimea, killing at least 17 students before committing suicide, 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 and going on a shooting spree on Wednesday before killing himself.
The incident in Kerch, a city of 147,000, which was initially reported as a gas explosion, was a case of mass murder, not terrorism, the committee said.
More than 40 people were injured in the attack.
The Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper quoted student Semyon Gavrilov, who said he fell asleep during a lecture and woke up to the sound of shooting.
He said he looked out and saw a young man with a rifle shooting at people.
“I locked the door, hoping he wouldn’t hear me,” the paper quoted Gavrilov as saying.
He said police arrived about 10 minutes later to evacuate people from the college and he saw dead bodies on the floor and charred walls, presumably from some fire or explosion.
Another student, Yuri Kerpek, told the state RIA Novosti news agency that the shooting went on for about 15 minutes.
Russia’s Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova headed to the area to help coordinate assistance to the wounded and helicopters carrying emergency medical teams flew to the area.
The local Crimean government announced three days of mourning following the incident and the Kremlin announced it would investigate the attack.
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.