A Ukrainian National Guard soldier opened fire on security guards at a military factory in central Ukraine for reasons unknown, killing five people and wounding five others before fleeing.
The incident took place in the early hours of Thursday in Dnipro at the Pivdenmash missile factory (Yuzhny Machine-Building Plant Yuzhmash) as weapons were being issued to the guards at the start of a shift, a police statement said.
This comes as Ukraine has accused Russia of boosting supplies of weapons, ammunition and military equipment to separatist regions in Ukraine while actively recruiting mercenaries to fight in the ongoing conflict. Could this be one of them?
The attacker opened fire with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and afterwards fled the scene, the interior ministry said, adding: “As a result, five people died and another five were injured.”
Police later captured the suspect in the town of Pidgorodne outside of Dnipro.
Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy named the soldier as Artem Ryabchuk and said he would “bear the strictest responsibility provided by law”.
Monastyrskiy added the five wounded people were receiving medical treatment and “doctors are fighting to save their lives”.
“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 Monastyrskiy.
The incident occurred at 3:40am (01:40 GMT) when the shooter was being issued a weapon at the beginning of his shift, the ministry said. “The motives for the crime are not yet known.”
What was the motive?
Yuzhmash is an aerospace factory that produces and tests material related to defence, aeronautics and agriculture, according to its website.
“First of all, the investigation will face the question – what was the motive for committing such a terrible crime? Whether the serviceman faced a psychological pressure in the team will be studied,” deputy Ukraine’s interior minister Anton Gerashchenko said on Facebook.
He said investigators would look into how the soldier passed a medical commission that allowed him access to weapons. “In any case he will suffer the most severe punishment for the mass murder,” Gerashchenko said.
The attack comes at a sensitive time for Ukraine’s military. The Russian military has been amassing troops near the country’s border with Ukraine, and NATO members have accused Russia of planning an invasion of the country.
Moscow, meanwhile, denies the accusation and is seeking security guarantees that NATO will halt its eastward expansion into former Soviet republics.
The US and NATO have held a series of talks with Russian officials over the past few weeks, but the negotiations so far have failed to end the crisis. Another round of negotiations is set to take place in Berlin, Germany, in two weeks.