School in Russian-annexed Crimea hit by deadly attack

Student gunman kills 19 and wounds dozens more at vocational school in Kerch before killing himself, say authorities.

    The attack took place at a vocational school in the city of Kerch in Russian-annexed Crimea [Kerch.FM/ AFP]
    The attack took place at a vocational school in the city of Kerch in Russian-annexed Crimea [Kerch.FM/ AFP]

    A student has attacked a vocational college in the Russian-annexed peninsula, Crimea, killing at least 19 people before killing himself, according to authorities.

    Russia's Investigative Committee said CCTV footage showed 18-year-old student Vladislav Roslyakov entering Kerch Polytechnic College with a rifle on Wednesday and firing at students.

    Sergei Astrankin, the director of emergency medicine for Crimea, was cited by Russian state television as saying the death toll stood at 19, excluding the killer.

    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.

    Dozens of people were also 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.

    "Everyone was scared. People were crying."

    'Tragic event'

    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.

    SOURCE: News agencies