Nine students and staff killed by a teenage gunman at a Russian school were laid to rest Wednesday as officials called for tighter controls on guns and the internet.
After Tuesday’s attack left seven students and two staff dead at the school in the central city of Kazan, President Vladimir Putin called on lawmakers to toughen gun control laws and senior officials demanded stricter regulation of the internet.
Flags were flaying at half-mast throughout Kazan, the capital of the majority Muslim Russian region of Tatarstan.
All nine victims were buried Wednesday, a spokesperson for Tatarstan leader Rustam Minnikhanov said.
Family members wearing black and students of Elvira Ignatieva — a 26-year-old English teacher who reportedly died while shielding pupils from the gunman — laid flowers and read the Koran at her grave during a funeral ceremony.
“My niece was like a shining star: she took off, lit up and faded away,” her aunt Anna Ignatieva told AFP, crying and wearing a black scarf.
The lone gunman opened fire on Tuesday at Kazan’s School No. 175, armed with a shotgun and at least one improvised explosive device.
Dozens of mourners carrying flowers and soft toys also congregated outside the school to commemorate the dead.
“This is a huge and unexpected loss,” Irina Krasnikova told AFP.
“We live in such a nice city. It’s hard to believe this happened to us,” she added.
“It didn’t happen to my children, but it is so painful, it’s hard to speak.”
The gunman was identified as 19-year-old Ilnaz Galyaviev, a former student at the school who was recently dismissed from a local technical college for poor grades.
Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said Wednesday that Galyaviev suffered from a brain disorder and had repeatedly sought medical attention for severe headaches.
“His family has also noticed aggression and a quick temper in his behaviour since the beginning of this year,” she said.
Panic spread throughout the building, with some students jumping from windows to escape, and the gunman was detained within about an hour.
Galyaviev was shown in interrogation footage leaked online claiming he was God and that he had “a monster” inside him.
He was due to make a first court appearance on Wednesday, and prosecutors were expected to formally charge him with murder.
All the children killed were in Ignatieva’s eighth-grade class and believed to be aged 13 and 14. The second staff member killed was a teaching assistant for younger students.
Twenty children including some who sustained injuries while attempting to escape the school building were hospitalised, regional authorities said on Wednesday. Three adults were also hospitalised.
Eight students were being treated for gunshot wounds and two were in critical condition.
After the attack, Putin offered condolences to the families of the victims and urged lawmakers to make the process of legally obtaining a firearm more strict.
Calls for internet controls
The shooting also prompted calls among pro-Kremlin lawmakers for even tighter regulation on the internet, which opposition figures in Russia say authorities use to suppress political dissent.
The speaker of the lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, called on lawmakers to discuss the possibility of removing internet anonymity, requiring users to identify themselves to be allowed online.
Authorities have claimed that young Russians are being increasingly exposed to negative influences online, especially from the West.
The Russia-born founder of encrypted messenger Telegram, Pavel Durov, said Wednesday that his team had “acted quickly” to block the gunman’s account, one hour after receiving initial complaints about his channel.
Russia has relatively few school shootings due to normally tight security in education facilities.
Buying firearms legally is also not easy, although it is possible to register hunting rifles.
Officials noted that Galyaviev had undergone security and psychological tests to gain a license for the weapon.
Though public shootings are rare in Russia, Tuesday’s attack follows similar incidents in recent years.
In November 2019, a 19-year-old student in the far eastern town of Blagoveshchensk opened fire at his college, killing one classmate and injuring three other people before shooting and killing himself.
In October 2018, another teenage gunman — reportedly using the same type of weapon as Galyaviev — killed 20 people at the Kerch technical college in Crimea, the peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.