MOSCOW — At least six people were killed and 24 were wounded when a gunman opened fire at a university in the northwestern Russian city of Perm, authorities said Monday.
The rampage at Perm State University, which sent students hurling themselves from windows to escape the gunfire, was extremely rare for Russia, a country with little experience with mass shootings of the kind seen routinely in the United States.
President Vladimir Putin called the shooting “a tremendous tragedy, not only for the families who lost their children, but for the entire country.”
Russia’s Investigative Committee, a law enforcement agency, identified the attacker as a student who had purchased a hunting rifle in May. The agency said he had been apprehended and is in the hospital for treatment of wounds suffered while resisting arrest.
Authorities have not released the suspect’s name or described a motive.
Russian media reported that the alleged shooter was a first-year male student at the university who was put on a ventilator in intensive care.
Konstantin Kalinin, the junior officer who authorities said restrained the gunman, said the attacker had a rifle and a knife. The hunting weapon was obtained legally, Valery Gribakin, a spokesman for the Russian national guard, told the state news agency Tass.
In a video posted on the Interior Ministry website Monday, Kalinin said he had been in his office dealing with a traffic accident when students arrived to report a potential shooting. He said he and his partner ran toward the building where the gunshots were coming from.
“I saw an armed young man going down the stairs,” Kalinin said. “I shouted at him and ordered him to ‘drop it.’ After that, the young man pointed a gun at me and fired a shot. I had to use my firearm. He fell down.”
Kalinin said he ran to the gunman, restrained him, removed the weapons and ammunition, and then gave him first aid.
Witnesses described hearing the sound of gunshots popping repeatedly and screams. Some students ran to safety; others barricaded themselves in classrooms. Officials initially cited eight deaths in the shooting but later revised the figure to six.
Among the victims was one of the region’s leading doctors, Russian media reported.
A professor at the public university, Ivan Pechishchev, told the BBC that students jumped from second-floor windows, screaming. “One of the students told me that it was a shooting,” he said. “I heard pops. Everyone began to scatter in different directions.”
Semyon Karyakin told Reuters he witnessed the attack.
“There were about 60 people in the classroom,” he said. “We closed the door and barricaded it with chairs.”
Russian media published audio of an interview with a taxi driver who said he had driven a person suspected to be the shooter to the university and dropped him near a bus stop.
The driver, who was identified only as Yuri, said the student was wearing a balaclava. “I asked him a couple of questions about the balaclava: ‘What’s that? Is it because of the coronavirus?’ I looked at him and he didn’t want to talk, so I didn’t ask any more questions.”
He said the person had a bag, which Yuri suggested he put in the trunk, but the person said he wanted to keep it in the cab with him, he said.
The attack, which occurred as Russia awaited the results of its parliamentary elections, dominated headlines here on Monday. Russia has strict laws regulating civilian gun ownership; people are required to pass psychological exams before they can obtain licenses for hunting and sport firearms.
Nine people died and 20 were injured when a gunman opened fire at a school in the northwestern city of Kazan in May. That prompted Putin to order gun laws tightened. He signed the changes into law in June.
The U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, offered condolences Monday. “On behalf of all of us at the U.S. Mission, I offer my deepest condolences to the victims of today’s shooting at the Perm State University campus,” he said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with their families and everyone enduring this senseless tragedy.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was up to law enforcement to establish the motive. “But, apparently, we are talking about some deviations in the young man who committed this murder, and I think experts should deal with this and try to understand what was the reason for this tragedy,” he said.
The Kremlin said Putin had ordered a ministerial delegation to the area to support the victims’ families.
The government of the Perm region announced it would pay compensation of a million rubles, which is just under $13,700, to each bereaved family.
Perm State University, roughly 890 miles east of Moscow, is one of the oldest universities in Russia.
One of the most shocking — and deadly — attacks in Russia’s history occurred at a school in the southwestern city of Beslan in September 2004.
Thirty Chechen militants raided the building and took children, teachers and parents hostage. After a three-day standoff, Russian troops stormed the school, which resulted in a bloodbath that killed more than 300 people, many of them children.
The European Court of Human Rights later concluded that Russian authorities had breached human rights laws. The court noted that the use of excessive force “contributed to the casualties among the hostages.”
Hassan reported from London. Berger reported from Washington.