Crimea mourns victims of school massacre dubbed 'Russian Columbine'

Mourners at the World War II Hero Cities Memorial to the city of Kerch in downtown Moscow, on Oct 18, 2018, a day after a 18-year-old student opened fire on his fellow students, leaving at least 19 people dead and dozens injured. PHOTO: AFP

KERCH, CRIMEA (AFP) - Mourners wept at a ceremony in Crimea on Friday (Oct 19) held for the 20 people killed in a school shooting dubbed the "Russian Columbine", the worst massacre of its kind in the country's history.

Two days earlier, 18-year-old Vladislav Roslyakov opened fire at his technical college in the city of Kerch before killing himself. More than 40 others were injured in the attack.

"We don't want to talk, we want to weep. The history of Crimea will be divided in two - before and after October 17," the leader of the Moscow-annexed peninsula Sergei Aksyonov told a crowd of hundreds at Kerch's central square.

"We need to be strong, we need to be brave," he said.

On the city's Lenin Square, tables covered in red cloth had been set up opposite a statue of the Soviet leader, each one bearing a photograph of a victim.

Mr Aksyonov placed a red rose in front of each coffin at the ceremony, which was set to continue in a procession to the city's new cemetery.

Hundreds of students from the technical college where the attack took place were at the square, including an injured young woman in a wheelchair.

Security has been stepped up in the city of 150,000, which sits in the far east of Crimea and is where a recently opened bridge links the Russian mainland to its newly annexed territory. All central roads have been closed.

Of those injured in the attack, a number remained in a "very serious condition", Russian Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said.

Many of those hospitalised were injured by an explosion that blasted metal ball bearings and other items into their bodies.

Six have been transferred to the Russian capital for further treatment, Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.

On Thursday, a girl claiming to be Roslyakov's former girlfriend told Russian media that he had spoken of taking revenge for bullying.

"He would say that he lost trust in people when his classmates began humiliating him for not being like everyone else," a 15-year-old named as Zlata told the Kremlin-funded RT television outlet.

"Vladislav was always telling me about his frequent fights with people around him," she said, adding that he "didn't want to live" because of it.

President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, said the killing was the "result of globalisation" and the continuation of a trend that had begun in the United States.

Several media outlets made a comparison with the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in the US, which left 13 people dead.

They described photographs circulating on the Internet showing Roslyakov wearing a similar T-shirt to Eric Harris, one of the Columbine killers.

Investigators are working to establish the teenager's exact motive and whether he was working alone.

According to the Russian Kommersant newspaper, the teenager "grew up in a rather poor family" with a disabled father. The paper said that Roslyakov's mother is a Jehovah's Witness - a Christian organisation considered "extremist" and banned in Russia.

Russian television reported that she works as an orderly at one of the hospitals that treated the victims.

According to the RIA Novosti agency, security forces raided Roslyakov's family home following the killings.

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