Russia’s Ministry of Defense reported that 11 soldiers were killed and 15 others were wounded on October 15 following a “terrorist attack” at a military training ground in the Valuysky District of Belgorod Oblast, which sits right along the border of Ukraine. According to initial reports from Russian media, the shooting occurred during weapons training at a firing range, in which two suspects used their weapons to open fire on other volunteers of the 138th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade. The Defense Miinistry described the suspects as “citizens of one of the CIS countries” and were later identified by Russian media as Tajiks. Both were killed in return fire, according to Russia’s defense Ministry.
Other Russian media outlets, such as SOTA, however, initially reported that the death toll was 16 and that 32 were wounded, adding that there were three attackers, in which two were killed and one escaped.
Pictures from the Russian training incident in the Belgorod region.
At least 11 people were killed and 15 injured in a shooting
?? said "two citizens of one of the CIS countries committed a terrorist act at the training ground of the Western Military District"#Ukraine pic.twitter.com/oL05UwFRtQ
— South East Military Veterans (@EastVeterans) October 16, 2022
Since the shooting, details of why it happened have been very scarce. The Russian Telegram channel Astra Press stated that it had interviewed a soldier at a hospital in Valuyki who said he was wounded during the shooting. Astra Press noted that the soldier’s identity was not released due to security reasons and it could not independently confirm his statements.
With that being said, the soldier explained to Astra Press that the shooting stemmed from a religious argument between a senior officer and muslim volunteers, who were already upset because they were “not allowed to pray on time, they were not given a prayer room.”
The soldier told Astra Press “It all started with some of our soldiers – Dagestanis, Azerbaijani and Adyghe – said that ‘this is not our war’ and tried to write a report that they do not want to serve anymore. Lieutenant Colonel Andrei Lapin, when he learned it through the company commander, gathered everyone and began to say that ‘this is a holy war.’”
“The Tajiks told Lapin in response that a holy war is when Muslim war with infidels. Lapin said that “Allah means a coward if he doesn’t allow you to fight for the country you are sworn in.” I personally think it hurts the most, the phrase that “Allah is weakling.” The phrase shocked a lot of people – among those who stood on the parade ground there. Because we also have Muslims from the officers – both Bashkirs and Tatars.”
5/ Trouble in #Belgorod.
The shooting in the Belgorod training grounds is confirmed. Images of the aftermath showing deceased Russian soldiers have surfaced. The total number of casualties remains unclear, ranging from 11 to 23 depending on the source. pic.twitter.com/5nbMmeWNnF
— Fella Campeador ??? (@AldemiraVeiga) October 16, 2022
The soldier added that some form of scuffle broke out, but then everyone calmed down. However, the soldier said that “after an hour and a half, somewhere at lunchtime, we were all sent together to the shooting ranges, and three Tajiks who were in contract service, they deployed their assault rifles, they had live ammunition, and shot our commander, Lieutenant Colonel Lapin, he died on the spot. And they opened a messy shooting. There were both contractors and mobilized ones at the test site. The dead I only saw were 29 people. The 30th is Lieutenant Colonel Lapin. This is not counting two Tajiks, with them killed 32. I don’t know exactly how many wounded, some have already been delivered by helicopters to Belgorod, some are with me in Valuyki now.”
The Soldier also told Astra Press that three Tajik soldiers were involved in the shooting, identifying them as “Bixot,” a senior sergeant, “Anushe,” and “Ami,” a junior sergeant. He explained how Bixot and Anushe were killed, and that Ami was wounded and able to escape, backing initial reports from SOTA.
Since the shooting, there has not been any mention amongst official Russian military releases or state media of a third escaped shooter. There are still a lot of unknowns as well, as the report from Astra Press is the only thing suggesting a possible motive in the shooting.