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Law enforcement officers outside of the entrance to the school after the explosion

Former student detonates improvised explosive outside Orthodox school in Russia, injuring 12

Source: Meduza
Law enforcement officers outside of the entrance to the school after the explosion
Law enforcement officers outside of the entrance to the school after the explosion
Dimitar Dilkoff / AFP / Scanpix / LETA

An explosion on the grounds of an Orthodox school injured 12 people in the Russian town of Serpukhov on the morning of December 13. The improvised bomb was detonated by 18-year-old Vladislav Struzhenkov, a former student at the school. Struzhenkov was severely injured in the explosion and hospitalized in critical condition. While his motives remain unclear, pupils at the school told journalists that Struzhenkov was “bullied” by his teachers. Following the explosion, law enforcement raided Struzhenkov’s home and reportedly confiscated a variety of weapons. Investigators have opened a criminal case and intend to interrogate Struzhenkov once his condition has improved. 

On the morning of December 13, Vladislav Struzhenkov detonated an explosive device at an Orthodox school in a town outside Moscow, injuring 12 people. The school in question is located on the grounds of the Vladychny Monastery, a convent in the town of Serpukhov in the Moscow region. Struzhenkov, age 18, had recently graduated from the school.

Contrary to initial reports, Struzhenkov was not killed in the explosion. He is currently in intensive care. However, he did not receive medical attention right away — the police feared he may have had another bomb with him. “He survived, but the explosion tore off his leg. The young man was hospitalized in critical condition,” a source in law enforcement told the Russian state news agency TASS. The spokesperson for the Moscow region’s Investigative Committee branch, Olga Vrady, later reported that one of Struzhenkov’s legs had to be amputated. 

Seven other people were hospitalized, as well. Six of the victims are in satisfactory conditions, while the seventh is in moderately severe condition. In total, ten school children were injured in the blast, three of whom declined to be hospitalized.

Allegedly, Struzhenkov planned to detonate the device during the school’s morning prayer, which would have resulted in many more victims. Citing a source involved in the investigation into the blast, the tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda reported that all of the school’s students and teachers gather in the hallway for morning prayer before the start of lessons. “Apparently, Struzhenkov hoped to go inside and immediately detonate an improvised explosive device. But the front door was locked. He began to knock and at that moment the bomb exploded,” the source said, noting that the children on the other side of the door were the ones injured in the blast. 

When Meduza’s correspondent arrived at the scene of the explosion, there were still two sappers with metal detectors at the site, as well as criminologists in white protective suits. The area around the convent was surrounded by traffic police, FSB, Interior Ministry, and Investigative Committee vehicles, and the entrance to the grounds was blocked by a bus. A police officer at the scene told Meduza that the explosion blew off a piece of the school’s wooden door.

Following the incident, law enforcement raided the Struzhenkov family’s apartment and garage.  The Investigative Committee reported that “objects and substances relevant for further investigation” were seized from the apartment, but didn’t disclose any further details. An informed source told Interfax that investigators found a “cache” of weapons that included pistols, rifles, an empty machine gun, and saltpeter (potassium nitrate). The Telegram channel Shot later published photos that allegedly show the items confiscated during the search. According to TASS, Struzhenkov allegedly had a machete with him at the time of the attack, as well as the explosive device that he detonated outside the school. 

Struzhenkov’s motive remains unclear. An informed source told Interfax that he could have been motivated by “hatred of the school teachers and the nuns” — allegedly, the teenager was bullied by his teachers while at the school. A source in law enforcement also told TASS about a “conflict” between Struzhenkov and other students and teachers. A pupil at the school told Mash that it’s common for the teachers there to bully students, adding that this sometimes happens “for absolutely no reason.” “The teachers call [pupils] names, sometimes they might hit them, lower their grades, they’re disrespectful,” she said. The pupil went on to describe Struzhenkov as “good, kind, and positive.”

One student told Meduza that Vladislav had always been “kind and quiet,” but the teachers disliked him. The teachers, she said, “insulted” him, “lowered his grades,” and told him he wouldn’t amount to anything. Another student at the school also recalled that Struzhenkov had complained to her about having problems with his teachers. “He used to say he was ‘tortured’ by some teacher, that some debts had to be paid. In general, there were difficulties with [his] academic performance,” she told BBC News Russian. 

At the same time, one of Struzhenkov’s friends told the publication Baza that the 18-year-old considered himself an “anti-natalist” and “did not love all of humanity.” “He wanted to take revenge on society — to commit suicide and take away some part of it. He didn’t want to take revenge on the gymnasium specifically,” the source said.

Investigative Committee spokeswoman Olga Vrady reported on Monday that the authorities had launched a criminal investigation on charges of attempted murder and the illegal trafficking of explosive devices. Due to the severity of his injuries, Struzhenkov has yet to be interrogated by law enforcement. When possible, he is set to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. According to media reports, the teenager developed “mental health issues” after his thyroid gland was removed due to cancer, but he wasn’t registered as a patient at a psycho-neurological clinic. Similarly, Life reported that Struzhenkov began to gain weight after the operation and was “depressed for a long time.” Allegedly, he was prescribed medications and taken to see a psychologist. However, according to Shot, Struzhenkov stopped taking his medications several months ago at the insistence of his father.

Patriarch Kirill offered condolences following the incident and expressed hope that “city authorities, law enforcement agencies, and educational institutions will do everything necessary to rule out the possibility of a repetition of such incidents in the future.” The Orthodox patriarch also underscored that in these “difficult circumstances” it’s important to show sympathy and provide attention and support to the victims, as well as “to help suffering people overcome the consequences of the crime.” Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vladimir Legoyda stated that the church would provide “assistance and full support” to all the victims.

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