A school shooting erupted Tuesday morning in the Russian city of Kazan, killing at least nine people and leaving 20 others hospitalised with wounds, according to local authorities from Russia's Muslim-majority Tatarstan region. A 19-year-old boy was arrested as authorities launched a criminal investigation.
President Vladimir Putin ordered a review of gun control laws after the shooting – one of the worst in recent Russian history – which occurred on the first day back to school following annual May holidays.
The spree started around 9.30am local time (6.30am GMT), sparking panic among students and teachers at the School No. 175 in Kazan, the capital of the Russian predominantly Muslim republic of Tatarstan.
Amateur footage on social media, apparently filmed from a nearby building, showed people escaping from the school by jumping from second- and third-floor windows, with sounds of gunshots echoing in the schoolyard.
Police said they detained the gunman approximately one hour after initial reports of shooting.
Rustam Minnikhanov, governor of the republic, said Tuesday that among the dead were four male and three female eighth-grade students, and two adults, including a teacher.
Another 20 were hospitalised, including 18 children. Six of them were in intensive care, Lazzat Khaidarov, a spokesman for the regional authorities, told AFP.
The ages of the injured people varied from between seven and 62.
Russia's state RIA Novosti news agency reported earlier that a total of 11 people had been killed in the Kazan school shooting, citing local emergency officials. There was no way to immediately reconcile the differing death tolls.
In the aftermath of the killings, authorities declared a day of mourning for Wednesday while Putin expressed his "deep condolences" to the victims and called for new gun laws.
"The president gave an order to urgently work out a new provision concerning the types of weapons that can be in civilian hands, taking into account the weapon" used in the attack, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Authorities said additional security measures were put into place in all schools in Kazan, a city roughly 700 kilometres (430 miles) east of Moscow.
“The terrorist has been arrested, (he is) 19 years old. A firearm is registered in his name. Other accomplices haven't been established, an investigation is underway," Minnikhanov said after visiting the school Tuesday.
There were initial reports of two shooters, with one reportedly barricaded on the fourth floor of the building and killed, but officials later said a lone attacker was responsible
Police have opened a criminal investigation into the incident. Footage posted on social media showed a young man being pinned to the ground outside the school building by a police officer.
News footage of the school building also showed dozens of ambulances lined up in front of the entrance.
Tatarstan leader Minnikhanov described the shooting as "a major tragedy for our republic" shortly after the building was secured. "We are deeply saddened that this has happened."
A source told Interfax that the suspect had been armed with a Turkish-made Hatsan escort shotgun, the same weapon used in a mass shooting at a college in Kerch in Russian-annexed Crimea in 2018, one of the last major shootings of the kind on Russian soil.
Officials ordered a minute's silence at football matches later Tuesday, and both cabinet and parliament meetings honoured those dead in the attacks.
Witnesses offered chilling accounts of the tragedy. "I was in class, I first heard an explosion, then gunshots," state news agency TASS quoted a student as saying in the wake of the attacks.
Elena, a Kazan resident who said she was outside the school, told the Echo of Moscow radio station earlier in the day that law enforcement was clearing people from outside the premises. "Parents are crying," she told the radio station. "People are hysterical."
Crimean Columbine copycat
School shootings are relatively rare due to normally tight security in education facilities and the difficulty of buying firearms legally, although it is possible to register hunting rifles. But there have been several violent attacks on schools in recent years, mostly carried out by students.
One of the last major shootings of its kind took place in Russian-annexed Crimea in 2018 when a student at a college killed 19 before turning his gun on himself.
Afterwards, In November 2019, a 19-year-old student in the far eastern town of Blagoveshchensk opened fire in his college, killing one classmate and injuring three other people before shooting himself dead.
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.
The Crimea shooter, Vladislav Roslyakov, was able to legally obtain a gun licence after undergoing marksmanship training and being examined by a psychiatrist.
The shooting led to calls for tighter gun control in Russia.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)