MOSCOW >> Two masked teenagers armed with knives stormed a school in the central Russian city of Perm today, wounding at least 12 people, most of them elementary school students.
A teacher and a 16-year-old pupil who tried to intervene suffered serious stab wounds to the neck, officials said.
The two youths — one said to be a current student, the other a former student who was expelled — entered School 127, in the Motovilikhinsky district around 10 a.m. They came in through a back entrance, unnoticed by a security guard, and broke into a fourth-grade classroom, local news outlets reported.
One assailant pounced on students while the other blocked the classroom door, a witness told the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.
“They said they’re going to slaughter everyone. We initially thought it was a joke,” the Perm news site 59.ru quoted another as saying.
Within 10 minutes, the school was evacuated and eight ambulances arrived, the Perm region’s Health Ministry said in a statement. Twelve people were hospitalized, including two children and a teacher with serious stab wounds; nine children ages 10 and 11 suffered minor wounds, the statement said.
A teacher who tried to intervene, identified by local news outlets as Natalya Shagulina, was reported to be undergoing emergency surgery after heavy blood loss, the RBC newspaper reported.
The two assailants were also wounded.
Two suspects were detained, although the motives for the attack were not immediately clear. A social media profile that local news outlets said was linked to one of the suspects contained dozens of posts about the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in April 1999, in which two teenagers armed with guns and explosives killed 12 students and a teacher, before killing themselves.
The profile, on the Russian social media platform VK, also links to a group called “(School)shooters”, which comes with the disclaimer: “We do not advocate violence and we detest it in any form. We are simply a fact-finding group for information-gathering purposes. (18+).”
Police in Perm, in the Ural Mountains, said in a statement that one of the assailants was a patient at a local mental hospital.
The Perm attack followed a spate of similar ones across Russia in recent months, which have prompted a debate about security measures at the country’s schools and universities.
On Sept. 5, four pupils were wounded at a school outside Moscow after a student attacked a teacher with a kitchen knife and then opened fire with an air gun. The 15-year-old assailant had also posted about the Columbine School massacre on social media, Russian news media reported at the time. On Nov. 1, an 18-year-old college student in Moscow stabbed a teacher to death and posted selfies with the body on social media.
Guns are difficult to purchase legally in Russia.
Responding to the Perm attack, Russia’s ombudsman for children, Anna Kuznetsova, criticized in a Facebook post the security measures in place at the school. “Can it really be that no one was there to stop the hooligans other than 10-year-old children? What about the prevention systems in place?” she said. “Where was all this??!! I have a lot of questions.”
Dmitri Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin of Russia, said that it was too early to say if any changes to security measures at Russian schools would be required.
“Let’s wait to hear from the experts and not engage in amateurish speculation,” he said.