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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Shooting at a Russian training camp in border area kills 11 soldiers, state media reports

Billboard of a Russian soldier at a bus stop in Moscow, in August.

By James C. McKinley Jr.

Two men opened fire on Russian soldiers at a training camp in the Belgorod region Saturday, killing 11 and wounding 15, before being killed themselves, according to Russian state-run news outlets.

The Russian Defense Ministry called the episode a terrorist attack, according to state media outlets RIA Novosti and TASS, which quoted a ministry statement.

The account of the shootings could not be verified independently.

The statement from the ministry said the two men were from an ex-Soviet nation and fired on other soldiers during target practice at a firing range, RIA Novosti reported.

It was not immediately clear if the attackers were volunteer soldiers involved in the training. Earlier reports suggested they were volunteers.

Law enforcement representatives are working on-site, said the statement, which did not give the training camp’s name or precise location.

The camp lies in Belgorod, the Russian region that sits directly across the border from the northeastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv, which was overrun by Russian forces in the initial phase of the war but was recently reclaimed by Ukraine.

The shootings come after President Vladimir Putin announced a large mobilization to shore up his faltering war effort in Ukraine, where the Ukrainian army has been recapturing territory in the east and south occupied by Russia.

Putin has said at least 220,000 reservists have been called up. At least 16,000 of them have been deployed “in units that get involved in fulfilling combat tasks,” Putin told a news conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Friday, adding that he expects the mobilization to be completed within two weeks.

Russian media has reported at least seven deaths among people who were recently drafted. Asked Friday why some servicemen had died so soon after mobilization began, Putin said that in some cases training could take just 10 days.

In late September, Putin acknowledged that there had been “mistakes” in how the Russian government had been carrying out his draft. He described cases of people entitled to deferments being wrongly drafted, such as fathers of many children, men with chronic diseases or those above military age.

The Russian news reports did not specify which former Soviet state the shooters came from; the Russian army allows some foreigners to serve under contract, which can give them a pathway to citizenship.

Inside Russia, Putin’s draft has run into growing resistance after it appeared to be hitting minority groups and rural areas harder than the big cities.

Interviews last month with people in three regions in Russia’s predominantly Muslim Caucasus Mountains suggested widespread fear of mobilization. In Chechnya, a small-business owner described seeing few men on the streets of Grozny, the capital, and said a mosque that was typically overflowing on Fridays was one-third empty.

In Kabardino-Balkaria, a local activist reported that one village of 2,500 had seen 38 people drafted and that there was talk of young men injuring themselves to avoid conscription. But few people were protesting, he said, because civic life had been virtually liquidated.

And in Ingushetia, a Russian army officer said he was trying to avoid going to Ukraine. “People are close to panic,” he said. “The police are stopping cars and handing over draft notices.”

All spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

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