Crimean Community Still Reeling After Kerch College Rampage
23 October, 2018

Two Russian Guard officers in each educational institution. This is how the working day started in Kerch on October 22 following the tragedy which claimed the lives of 21 people and injured a further 50. The victims were mainly teenagers.

“We are here, the best OMON (Russian special forces police - ed.) officers,” one mother jokes, “But we have to come and check the security here. [The security] the police have set up is good. We will stand here to the end of the week, or longer, if they don’t give us an explanation. However, the children need the community.”

School No.17 is located a few hundred meters from the Polytechnic college – the site of the shootings. After the incident, towards the end of the week, schools in Kerch were open, but there were as few as seven children in some classes.

Photo credit: Oleksandr Popenko/HROMADSKE

Deciding whether or not to take their children to schools and colleges is probably the most important issue for the city’s residents. There is a notion that if the kids stay out of schools, they will be spending time in the streets or “even worse, sitting at home on social media.”

“You tell us how to live? And what to do now?” one man says in response to our questions. “I tried to get through to my granddaughter and explain that real life is not on the internet. There’s no food there. In my childhood I would walk around the whole of Crimea. But now they’re all on there.”

Photo credit: Oleksandr Popenko/HROMADSKE

Parents’ concerns about the internet can be justified with the rumors that it is possibly where Roslyakov found out how to build the explosive device, which killed his fellow students.

Photo credit: Oleksandr Popenko/HROMADSKE

The Russian federal agency responsible for censorship Roskomnadzor has already banned a video of explosion recorded on CCTV. In the latest video, earlier published on Russian TV channels, another boy can be seen communicating with Roslyakov. However, besides speculation, the footage does not provide any additional information.  

READ MORE: Crimea in Mourning: A Special Report from Kerch

But these videos could provide some understanding of what happened. In some videos, it’s clear that Roslyakov had a hiding place in betweens the garages. And in one interview with a friend of the boy’s mother, it was stated that Roslyakov had a summer job for three years in order to earn enough for a rifle.  

Photo credit: Oleksandr Popenko/HROMADSKE

Most of all, Kerch residents are afraid of the groups on social media VKontakte where teenagers communicate and where profiles under the name Vlad Roslyakov have appeared.

Parents are also concerned about how to talk about this tragedy with their children. Local media in Kerch told Hromadske that a group of psychologists have come from Moscow and are working with the families.

Photo credit: Oleksandr Popenko/HROMADSKE

The classes at the Polytechnic college resumed on October 23, albeit in a different building. The building where the explosion occurred is in ruins. And, more importantly, it is now the site of an ongoing investigation and has therefore been cordoned off.

The college director Olha Hrebennikova was not in the building during the explosion and shootings. She left literally just before. On October 22, she came to work at 8:30 a.m. She talked with her colleagues and then spent a long time in discussion with the OMON officers.  

“You can read everything in the news: that’s my comment,” Hrebennikova categorically stated. It’s clear she will not tell us anything more.

Photo credit: Oleksandr Popenko/HROMADSKE

Teachers have generally been advised not to talk, as with everyone else who could know something about the incident – parents, students, witnesses. The Russian security services have already spoken to students who had previously been expelled from the college.

Vitaliy Yehorov and his wife have come to pick up some documents. Their 20-year-old daughter Yana is currently in hospital in Krasnodar. Her legs have been injured, but the doctors say she will walk again. Her parents have come to get her passport and credit cards. A lot of students lost their documents the day of the explosion. The father emotionally emphasizes the fact that “compensation will only be issued to his daughter,” as if worried we might think otherwise.\

Photo credit: Oleksandr Popenko/HROMADSKE

According to the occupying government of Crimea, the families of the deceased will receive around $15 thousand (1 million rubles) each. The residents are also fundraising. Walking through the city, we see ATMs with a notice reading: “Official collection for the victims and families of those who died at the Kerch Polytechnic college.”

The banks that are operational on the annexed peninsula are the Russian banks set up specifically for Crimea or subdivisions of those financial institutions that do not care about international sanctions.

READ MORE: Deadly Blast in Russia-Annexed Crimea: What We Know So Far

Fundraising is also happening on social media where additional information about victims can be found too. One girl, Fatme Karpusheva, who is in in critical condition, was taken to Krasnodar. Others have been taken to Moscow.  

According to information from various Kerch-based media, there are from three to seven people in critical condition. However, there are also still at least 45 people in hospitals.

Photo credit: Oleksandr Popenko/HROMADSKE

In the city’s central Lenin Square, there are two memorials: a screen which says “Kerch 17.10.2018” (the date of the attack) and a stele surrounded by flowers and soft toys, placed there by locals. Some teenagers are riding their bikes nearby, some others are sat looking at their phones.  

Despite the fact that, according to locals, there are less people on the streets than normal, on Sunday and Monday, the city will return to life as usual.

“You don’t really think you’ll find someone special, ready to talk. Everyone here in the city is equally traumatized,” one person tells Hromadske.

“There has to be some limit, so we don’t make it seem as though nothing happened, but we have to come to our senses,” one man walking down the street with his wife says. As we walk away, the couple start discussing whether or not Roslyakov acted alone.

There’s a lot of uncertainty in the city, but it’s difficult to imagine it being any other way. On the one hand, you could say that the residents are tired of the attention. On the other, there are ones who think: “Does anyone [still] care about us? For three days, there have been many conversations and people around. And now, we’re lucky if we get a mention in the crawler.”

From Mount Mithridat in the middle of the fog, you can see the newly-built Crimean Bridge. Kerch is the most eastern part of the annexed peninsula. These days it seems even more distant and isolated from the rest of the world.

/By Nataliya Gumenyuk and Oleksandr Popenko

/Translated by Sofia Fedeczko