National Guard commander resigns after mass shooting
One of Ukraine's top military officers has announced that he will step down in the wake of a mass shooting that saw a guardsman turn his gun on five people at a rocket factory in the Eastern European nation.
Lieutenant General Mykola Balan said that he had submitted his resignation as commander of the National Guard of Ukraine on Thursday after five people were killed and another five wounded during a shooting spree at a factory complex in Dnepr the same day.
“Given that the commanding officer is responsible for any actions, good or bad, this morning I wrote a report to the Minister of Internal Affairs and a request to the president to accept my resignation,” Balan told reporters at a briefing on Thursday afternoon.
Balan also suspended the commander of the National Guard regiment stationed at the Yuzhmash factory, so he would not interfere with the investigation into the shooting.
Interior Minister Denis Monastirsky praised Balan’s gesture as “the act of a true officer” and said that Lieutenant General Yuri Lebed will take over as commander. Monastirsky also said he would order a study of the conditions of service for National Guard conscripts.
The move comes after the massacre at the Yuzhmash rocket factory earlier on Thursday, where a National Guard unit was garrisoned as security. In the early hours of the morning, a conscript took a rifle and ammunition from the unit’s armory and began shooting at his colleagues. Five people were killed, and five more wounded in the rampage.
The assailant was identified as Artemiy Ryabchuk, from the southwestern city of Odessa. He was arrested outside the factory and charged with premeditated murder and desertion with weapons. He faces a sentence that ranges from 15 years to life in prison, if found guilty.
No motive has been given by the authorities for Ryabchuk’s actions, but Monastirsky’s decision to order a review of service conditions indicates the possibility that hazing or bullying may have played a role in the shooting.
Ukraine has been ramping up conscription in recent weeks, amid US claims of a supposed impending “Russian invasion.” Moscow denies that it has plans to launch an incursion despite reports that up to 100,000 troops have been stationed on the shared border, and insists that NATO is inflaming tensions.