Gunman kills 5 at Ukrainian rocket factory, adding to tensions

KRAMATORSK, Ukraine — A member of Ukraine’s National Guard opened fire on an aerospace and rocket factory on Thursday, killing five peop...


KRAMATORSK, Ukraine — A member of Ukraine’s National Guard opened fire on an aerospace and rocket factory on Thursday, killing five people, authorities said, and sparking anxiety in a region already on edge amid tensions with the Russia increase.

Little was known about the soldier behind the attack or his motive, but given the tightly guarded nature of the factory and warnings in recent days that Moscow might stage an act of sabotage as a pretext to invade Ukraine, the shooting immediately attracted attention.

The attack took place in Dnipro, one of the country’s largest cities, more than 100 miles from the frontline of the war in eastern Ukraine, where the army is fighting separatists backed by Russia since 2014.

The shooter fled the scene, resulting in a sprawling manhunt that lasted for hours before a suspect was arrested, police say. The man was identified as Artemiy Ryabchuk, and authorities said he was born in 2001, but released a few other details.

Credit…Ukrainian Interior Ministry, via Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

The investigation took place against the backdrop of a geopolitical struggle.

The Kremlin has pushed to reduce the Western presence in a region it considers to be within its sphere of influence, repositioning troops to increase the pressure and demanding assurances that NATO will not allow Ukraine to become member. Earlier this month, the United States said Russia had sent intelligence agents and saboteurs to eastern Ukraine to stage a provocation, with industrial infrastructure seen as a potential target.

This made the site of Thursday’s attack of particular interest.

The shooting took place in what was once one of the largest missile factories in the Soviet Union. US officials have long viewed the plant, commonly known as Yuzhmash, as presenting a risk of arms proliferation.

Ukrainian police said the gunman opened fire shortly before 4 a.m. as soldiers retrieved their weapons from a guard post. There were 22 people in the room at the time, authorities said.

Four of those killed were soldiers and the fifth was a factory worker, police said. Five other people were injured.

A declaration from the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said the soldier turned his gun on other soldiers guarding the factory and then fled. He said he fired “for undetermined reasons”.

Later, Denys Monastyrsky, Ukraine’s Interior Minister, wrote in a Facebook post that police were reviewing the suspect’s medical records since his enlistment, suggesting the investigation would include the possibility of a psychological disorder.

The attack came just hours after the United States and NATO provided written responses Russian demands regarding the presence of Western nations in former Soviet states. Moscow’s initial response was icy.

The rocket factory where the firing took place has long been a source of concern for Western officials worried about the proliferation of missile technology. After the end of the Cold War, it was one of the first places the United States came to its attention.

In December 1993, after years of negotiations, Ukraine has agreed to give up its nuclear weapons. A few months later, teams of Western scientists were sent there to work with the people there to destroy the nuclear weapons that had once been pointed at the United States.

But concerns remained.

Its technical libraries and aging cadre of poorly paid rocket scientists raised fears that rocket engine designs developed during the Soviet period could be passed on to rogue states like North Korea.

For Russia, the plant’s separation during the Soviet break-up from what had been an integrated space and military industry was seen as emblematic of the economic and scientific disruption caused by Ukraine’s emergence as an independent country. .

The company that now operates the plant manufactures civilian rockets for satellite launches and has cooperated with NASA on the design of resupply missions to the International Space Station. Its rocket designs include the Antares, Cyclone and Zenit, but it struggles to stay profitable.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Gunman kills 5 at Ukrainian rocket factory, adding to tensions
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