Ukraine leader orders probe after conscript shoots five dead

Ukraine leader orders probe after conscript shoots five dead

Following the shooting, the gunman had contacted police himself and surrendered to officers
Following the shooting, the gunman had contacted police himself and surrendered to officers

KYIV - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday ordered police to investigate a mass shooting carried out by a member of the national guard that left five dead and several others fighting for their lives.

In one the worst bouts of violence within Ukraine's security services in years, a 21-year-old national guard conscript opened fire at an aerospace factory in the centre of the country in the early hours of Thursday.

The attack comes as Ukraine is on high alert with concerns over tens of thousands of Russian troops massed around the ex-Soviet country's borders, but there was no immediate link made between the shooting and the looming Russian threat by authorities.

In a statement, Zelensky described reports of the shooting in the industrial city of Dnipro as "terrible" and offered condolences to the victims' friends and family.

"I expect law enforcement officers to keep the public fully informed about all the circumstances of this crime," he said, including the gunman's motives and "how the incident was allowed to happen".

Four members of the national guard and a civilian woman were among those killed when the shooter opened fire with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and immediately fled the scene.

- Suspect surrendered -

The incident occurred at around 3:40 am local time (0140 GMT), at the Yuzhmash factory which produces materials related to defence, aeronautics and agriculture.

The interior ministry published images of the shooter with a shaved head and wearing military uniform, identifying him as Artemiy Ryabchuk, born in 2001 in the southern region of Odessa.

Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky announced that police had detained Ryabchuk and released images of security forces pinning him to snow-blanketed ground.

Monastyrsky said five people had been injured in the shooting and that "doctors are fighting to save their lives."

In a later statement, the State Bureau of Investigation (DBR), which probes major crimes, said the gunman had contacted police himself and surrendered to officers in the town of Pidgorodne outside Dnipro.

The DBR said that it launched a criminal case into negligence with the leadership of the national guard, adding the gunman faced life in jail if found guilty.

"Following my order, a commission will be set up to study the circumstances that led to these actions being taken by a 21-year-old soldier, who had been called to defend his country and be responsible for security -- and not to shoot his colleagues," said Monastyrsky.

He added there would be an investigation into how Ryabchuk passed military medical examinations and had been sanctioned to carry a weapon.

- Proliferation of weapons -

Shootings and bullying rituals plagued the militaries of former Soviet countries in the 1990s, particularly in Russia.

It is a trend which rights groups say has improved but still results in suicides or murders in the ex-USSR.

In Ukraine public violence has been perpetrated by veterans of the country's ongoing conflict with pro-Moscow separatists that erupted in 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula.

In August last year, a veteran threatened to detonate a hand grenade inside the government headquarters and was detained.

Police said that the man had been injured twice and suffered concussion during the conflict.

In 2018, four Ukrainian marines were killed in an apparent hazing incident while stationed in the country's war-torn east, with two fellow soldiers detained.

The conflict, which has claimed more than 13,000 lives, has also led to a proliferation of weapons among the civilian population.

In 2020, Ukrainian police freed 13 hostages and arrested an armed man who held them on a bus for more than 12 hours, threatening to detonate an explosive device.

Russia is accused of massing some 100,000 troops on Ukraine's borders in preparation for what Western allies say is a possible invasion.

Moscow denies any plans to invade but has put forward demands for wide-ranging security guarantees from the West, including that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO.

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