Ukrainian leader orders investigation after conscript shot five dead

After the shooting, the shooter himself contacted the police and turned himself in to officers

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

In one of the worst episodes of violence within Ukraine’s security services in years, a 21-year-old national guard conscript opened fire on an aerospace factory in the center 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 no immediate link has been established between the shooting and the impending Russian threat from the authorities.

In a statement, Zelensky called the reports of the shooting in the industrial city of Dnipro “terrible” and offered his condolences to friends and family of the victims.

“I expect law enforcement to keep the public fully informed of all the circumstances of this crime,” he said, including the shooter’s motives and “how the incident may have happened.” produce”.

Four National Guard members and a civilian woman were among those killed when the gunman opened fire with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and immediately fled.

– The suspect surrendered –

The incident occurred around 03:40 local time (01:40 GMT) at the Yuzhmash plant which produces materials related to defence, aeronautics and agriculture.

The Interior Ministry released images of the shooter with a shaved head and dressed in a military uniform, identifying him as Artemiy Ryabchuk, born in 2001 in the southern region of Odessa.

Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky said police arrested Ryabchuk and released footage of security forces pinning him to snow-covered ground.

Monastyrsky said five people were injured in the shooting and “doctors are fighting to save their lives.”

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

The DBR said it had launched a criminal negligence case with the National Guard leadership, adding that the shooter faced life in prison if convicted.

“Following my order, a commission will be set up to study the circumstances which led to these actions of a 21-year-old soldier, who had been called up to defend his country and be responsible for security – and not to shoot his colleagues,” Monastyrsky said.

He added that there would be an investigation into how Ryabchuk passed military medical exams and was disciplined for carrying a weapon.

– Arms proliferation –

Shootings and intimidation rituals plagued the armies of former Soviet countries in the 1990s, especially in Russia.

It’s a trend that rights groups say has improved but is still leading to suicides or murders in the former 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 government headquarters and was arrested.

Police said the man was injured twice and suffered a concussion during the dispute.

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

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

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

Russia is accused of having massed some 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders in preparation for what Western allies call a possible invasion.

Moscow denies any invasion plans, but has asked the West for far-reaching security guarantees, including that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO.

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