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Russians mourn victims of campus shooting spree

By AFP - Sep 21,2021 - Last updated at Sep 21,2021

Students react outside the university campus in Perm on Tuesday, one day after a gunman killed six people on the campus before being detained (AFP photo)

PERM, Russia — Shocked and grieving Russians gathered at a university in the city of Perm on Tuesday after a student went on a campus shooting spree killing six people and wounding dozens.

With a heavy police cordon still around Perm State University a day after the killings, shaken students in groups and families laid flowers and lit candles.

A photo of one of the victims was placed on the makeshift memorial.

Ksenia Punina, a professor of international relations at the university, told AFP she was in shock and in pain at the beginning of an official day of mourning over the attack.

"Our university is our home," said the 40-year-old, wearing a black mask bearing the university's name.

"It's completely unexpected; a total shock when a man comes into your house with a weapon to your family," she said as people gathered in a bright and crisp cold day.

On Monday morning a university student wearing black tactical gear and a helmet roamed through the densely populated campus wielding a hunting rifle and shooting down people in his path.

He was confronted by police and wounded while being detained.

There was no official indication yet of any motive for the attack, but local media said the attacker was a 19-year-old who had written on social media of wanting to harm people.

The rampage caused chaos on campus, with footage on social media showing dozens of students leaping from windows to evade the attacker.

'Shots' and 'screams' 

"First I saw people running, then I saw the shooter. I understood what was happening straight away," Yuri Aydarov, an adviser to the rector, told AFP Tuesday.

"I told students they have to move from the windows and lie down," Aydarov said.

"We were sitting quietly. Then there were shots and screams in the corridor," he added.

President Vladimir Putin described the incident, which claimed the lives of one man and five women aged between 18 and 66, as a "great loss" for the entire country.

On Tuesday morning, police had closed off the university’s mainly Soviet-era buildings except to senior staff. Other universities in Perm reopened Tuesday after closures but were on high alert along with schools.

The attack in Perm, some 1,300 kilometres from Moscow, was the second mass shooting to target students in Russia this year, and came with growing attention on gun control laws.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that legislative action had already been taken to further restrict gun buying since the first attack this year in the city of Kazan, which left nine people dead.

He said authorities would analyse what had happened this time.

Investigators said the student who carried out Monday’s shooting had legally obtained the hunting rifle earlier this year.

Of around two dozen people injured in the attack, nine were in a critical condition, said Health Minister Mikhail Murashko, who was dispatched to the scene to coordinate a response.

Local media said Education Minister Valery Falkov visited injured students in hospital Monday evening and said those that need more intense care will be taken to Moscow.

‘Lying here killed’ 

One of Punina’s students was among those badly wounded, she told an AFP journalist at the memorial, and had undergone surgery after being shot in the stomach.

Others that gathered to mourn victims were still coming to terms with what happened.

Alexei Yuldashev, an economics student, recounted that he couldn’t believe what was happening.

“Suddenly one of our classmates wrote to us that a shooting had started,” he said. “We didn’t believe it at first.”

“We closed ourselves in the lecture room until we were told to get out,” the 21-year-old told AFP.

Maria Zhyzhyleva, a 20-year-old geology student, was coming to terms with classes starting again.

“Imagine you arrive at university knowing that a man was lying here killed. Just try to imagine that. Personally, it will be hard for me,” she said.

Authorities have blamed foreign influence for previous school shootings, saying young Russians have been exposed online and on television to similar attacks in the United States and elsewhere.

In November 2019, a 19-year-old student in the far eastern town of Blagoveshchensk opened fire at his college, shooting dead one classmate and injuring three other people before killing himself.

In October 2018, another teenage gunman killed 20 people at a Kerch technical college in Crimea, the peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

He was shown in camera footage wearing a similar T-shirt to Eric Harris, one of the killers in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in the US, which left 13 people dead.

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