Gunman wore a jacket emblazoned with a fascist swastika as he killed two and injured six.
Two people in the church tried to halt him - and both were killed. Picture: Stepan Komarov's social account
Police are checking links of Stepan Komarov, 24, to extremist organisations after his gruesome rampage in the main cathedral on Sakhalin island. There are also suspicions he was involved in a 'neo-pagan' movement that is hostile to mainstream religions, say reports. The man - apparently drunk - has confessed to the double murder, for which the expected punishment is life in jail.
A private security guard who had served in Russia's special naval forces, the local man burst into the Cathedral of the Resurrection shooting at icons and shouting at worshippers: 'Pray now! Why aren't you praying?' He mocked the worshippers before he started shooting at two people who tried to remonstrate with him. Both died in the cathedral.
Earlier Komarov had been issued with a gun by his security company, Centurion, for a money collection job at a local bank. Instead of going to work, he went home, changed out of his uniform and changed into black clothes displaying the Nazi insignia. He then went to the cathedral.
It had never happened in our region before, and I hope it will never be repeated. Picture: Gazeta.ru
Two people in the church tried to halt him - and both were killed. One was nun Ludmila. 'The nun he killed was one of the first people who tried to stop Stepan, and paid an awful price for it as she was shot in her stomach,' said a report by Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper.
'Nun Ludmila was born as Olga Pryashnikova in Tyumen region in 1953 in a working family. Her parents moved to the Far East of Russia, where Olga married and had three children. Her husband died in 2000, and soon after that she moved to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk where one of her sons served as a priest. Olga became a nun in 2013.
'She was literally everywhere, helping with everything that needed to be done, from cleaning to working in the church shop. She loved flowers and put a lot of efforts in planting a lot of them around the cathedral. She was a person of a great heart, kind, smiling and never refusing help', the people in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk said about her.
The identify of the other dead churchgoer has not been released.
'The nun he killed was one of the first people who tried to stop Stepan, and paid an awful price for it'. Picture: Stepan Komarov's social account
Komarov's latest entries on his social sites give grounds for deep concern. 'When you realise that no-one gives a **** about you, life becomes amazingly simpler,' he wrote. 'The utmost pleasure is in doing what others thought you were unable to do.'
Another entry said: 'You've got your made up belief in some strange god, and stereotypes like 'being poor is bad'. You are sh**, and you will remain sh** until you realise that you are lied to at schools, you are lied into believing that you are free, your rights are violated - you live as sh** and will die as sh** and it will be too late to cry about it because the time will be gone.'
After the fatal shootings he apparently lay unmoving on the floor and was easily apprehended by police. He had good references for his security company job and had passed psychological tests for the armed forces.
Sakhalin governor Alexander Khoroshavin spoke of 'a wild, barbarous attack on people in a church' which 'has outraged many fellow countrymen and me personally. It had never happened in our region before, and I hope it will never be repeated'.
He stressed: 'No matter what motives guided the young man who opened fire at innocent people, this crime cannot be justified. By a lucky chance we did not have a bigger number of casualties.'
The governor added: 'I believe law enforcement and supervising agencies must establish order in the activity of different private guard service companies.
Especially as concerns their licensing, staff management, the issuing of different permissions and training of personnel as well as of course weapons handling.
The incident testifies to a weak control and maybe possible omissions. All people responsible for that must be punished, and violations must be eliminated. This is my strong stance'.
'After he began shooting people all ran away, instead of trying to got to him and try to disarm him'. Picture: Stepan Komarov's social account
The regional authorities will pay two million rubles ($57,600) in compensation to each of the families of those killed in the attack, and one million rubles to those of the injured. Archpriest Andrei Dudarev, in charge of Saint Panteleimon cathedral in Pushkin, Moscow region told the newspaper: 'It is incredibly hard to try and guess what exactly pushed that young man to do what he's done.
'Perhaps he had something against the Church. To me this story has something in common with the Pussy Riot story, when the girls managed not only to enter the cathedral, but to dance there. Something similar happened here, when he entered the cathedral with the rifle and got people like hypnotised looking at him.
'After he began shooting people all ran away, instead of trying to got to him and try to disarm him. My thought on this is that the Church relaxes parishioners. They come in feeling that God is above them, protecting them from everything. But the evangelical position is quite opposite in that it asks a person entering a cathedral to mobilise all his forces, from intellectual to physical and moral, and be prepared to act and be creative.'
The wounded are being treated in hospital. The Investigative Committee - Russia's main federal investigating authority - said psychiatrists would try to determine the suspect's mental condition. The shooting comes days after a teenager killed a teacher and a policeman in his school in Moscow.
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