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Mass Shootings and Lone Wolf Events by Young People

Lina Kolesnikova

A report on mass shootings and lone wolf events by young people in Russia and the Czech Republic.


Czech Republic (Prague)


On 21 December 2023, fourteen people were killed and twenty-five injured (ten of them seriously) in a mass shooting by a post-graduate history student in the Faculty of Arts building at Charles University in Prague. The perpetrator, dressed in black, opened fire around 14:00 inside the building on the fourth-floor corridors and classrooms. Then, he moved to the terrace and started to shoot people on the street. The shooting created panic with many people trying to escape the building and the street.


The 24-year-old gunman, David Kozak, killed himself on the spot when law enforcement officers entered the building. Interior Minister Víta Rakušan said that the police found several weapons and ammunition in the building. He told journalists at the press conference that he “cannot confirm any explosives, but an arsenal of multiple firearms and a huge amount of ammunition were found in the building. If the police had not entered… within a few minutes, there would have been many times more victims”.

The scale of the incident was unprecedented for the country. The initial investigation by Czech police considered the incident as non-terrorist nor non-ideologically motivated.

Further investigation has found that before the shooting David killed his father. He was also responsible for the double murder of a 32-year-old man and his two-month-old baby some days


before at Klánovice Forest (outskirts of Prague). The shooter was among 4,000 suspects in the double murder, but the check on him was delayed due to two factors, first, his place of residence was another region outside that of the incident which was further exacerbated by a shortage of police staff for carrying out the checks.

Kozak was described as “an introvert with an interest in weaponry”. The motive for his actions remains unclear.

The killer had eight firearms in legal possession. In addition, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were found at his home.


On 7 December 2023 a fourteen-year-old girl Alina Afanaskina came armed to her school, killed one and wounded five classmates in Bryansk (the Russian city southwest of Moscow). After the shooting Alina died by suicide on the spot she had hidden the gun, a Bekas-M, in a blueprint tube which freely passed the security guard at the school entrance. A box of bullets and a hunting knife were found among some personal belongings in her backpack after the incident. The gun belonged to her father, who possessed it legally. The school security guard, equipped with an alarm button with a direct connection to the city police, activated it almost immediately.

The girl had a twin sister, who was present at the shooting and, according to investigative sources, did not know about her sister’s plans and could not clarify the possible motives for it. The school’s psychologist confirmed that Alina had passed all psychological tests well and had not shown any suicidal inclination. Alina was described as a “calm and quiet person” by all teachers and classmates. She used a social media Telegram channel, which was deleted after the shooting.

In the immediate aftermath, there were speculations that the main motive behind the shooting was a personal conflict in the class or the bullying of Alina by some classmates. However, pretty soon after, Alina’s father was arrested and accused of “incitement to the suicide of a minor” and “negligent storage of arms”. Police also arrested the private security company owner, which provided the service to this school, a security lady-guard who was on duty on the day of the shooting, and the school’s deputy principal for negligence. The investigation is ongoing.

There have been more than ten shootings not related to terrorism at Russian schools and universities in recent years. Authorities insist that this is happening due to the popularity of the ideology associated with the Columbine school shooting. A large number of its followers are among Russian teenagers on social networks.

The “Columbine effect” refers to the global wave of copycat attacks, following the attack at the US school of the same name in 1999. The attackers gained a grim ‘hero’ status among imitators. Russian authorities were so concerned about the growth of the ideology that they have designated ‘incitement to commit a Columbine attack’ as a terrorist act, and the Columbine movement as a terrorist organization. Whilst this would not fall into a typical definition of terrorism, the prison sentence for terrorist acts in Russia is severe; life imprisonment which means imprisonment until death.

Coupled with negligent storage of arms and easy access to arms legally further makes it possible to enact copycat events.

Trends in Attacks by Young People

It should be noted that attacks by youngsters using knives, machetes, and axes to attack other children and young people are also increasing.

There is also a trend developing: an increase in attacks carried out by girls and young women. The youngest perpetrator was just 11 years old and in 2023 attacked another girl using a knife.

Lone Wolves

The years 2018 and 2021 were particularly marked by unprecedented violence and attacks with many victims.

On 17 October 2018, an 18-year-old student at Kerch Polytechnic College (Crimea), Vladislav Roslyakov, planted an IED at the college’s canteen. After the explosion, he opened fire on teachers and students who tried to escape from the fire and smoke. Later he killed himself at the scene. More than twenty people died and more than sixty were wounded in this tragic incident.

On 20 September 2021, armed first-year student, Timur Bekmansurov, killed six and wounded dozens at the premises of Perm State University. It was the second severe incident of mass shooting at an educational establishment in 2021. The previous was in Kazan (Republic of Tatarstan), where on 11 May, Ilnaz Galyaviev killed nine and wounded more than 30 people at the school. Both shooters were arrested by the police.

All three cases have many similarities in attackers’ profiles and their modus operandi, this enables us to understand the profile of lone wolves better.

All three attackers are young males, 18 and 19-year-olds, living in dysfunctional families. They had no or very distant relationships with their fathers. They also had an interest in arms, ammunition, and computer games with scenes of violence. They had problems with communication with other teenagers and were subjected to their practical jokes. In the pre-attack periods, the attackers expressed their misanthropic views publicly. Kazan’s attacker did so in his social network and the Perm University attacker did so verbally, calling people “biowaste, which should be eliminated”. None of their threats was taken seriously by people around them.

Kazan’s attacker had a medical treatment for serious headaches and was diagnosed with encephalopathy. The post-event medical check diagnosed mental health problems; he claimed that “he was God’s son and he hated all people”.

In his pre-attack video, Perm’s attacker explained his actions were “ordered by voices”, and it is thought that he had a “split personality”, which also can be a sign of serious mental health problems.

None of the attackers had any political or religious motives behind their actions nor had accomplices. No misogynistic or homophobic feelings were expressed.

The choice of targets involved selecting a familiar place, where an attacker could easily move due to knowing the area. Kazan’s attacker had chosen his former school; Kerch’s and Perm’s attackers – the college and University where they studied. The latter explained in his pre-attack video that he considered his former school as well but then changed his mind. They did not select a particular group of people to kill i.e., classmates, groupmates, or teachers. Perm’s attacker even preferred the premises, where his own University group was not present, as he liked some people and did not want to “bring any harm to them”.

Perm’s attacker expressed a “suicide by cop” desire. He wore military style clothing copycatting those images seen in computer war games.

Kazan’s attacker not only shot students and teachers and exploded an IED at the school, but also committed other crimes before that attack. He tried to set fire to his rented apartment with the intention of causing an explosion that would impact the whole building. Luckily for residents, the fire was not intense, and the plan failed.

All three attackers obtained their arms legally following approval from psychiatrists. Perm’s attacker had failed the first test but passed on his second attempt by learning the answers by heart. He researched and found the “right” answers on the internet.


Lone-wolves attacks are considered by law enforcement as the most difficult to prevent. However, evidence shows that these people expressed their ideas beforehand, verbally and/or on social networks, but unfortunately, they were not taken seriously by other people. And if terrorism gets more attention and the public becomes more aware of the possible troubling signs of potential terrorist’s behaviour, the

As non-terrorist attacks are increasingly and directly linked to website activity, we should be able to forecast more attacks with elements of gamification where there is an attempt to attract a larger audience and mimic video games played.

Legal possession of arms from the age of 18 in urban areas is also a big concern. Hunting could not be used as a pretext if young people live in big cities with no hunting areas and traditions. The discussion that a potential killer could find arms anyway is not relevant. If the arms are illegal there is more chance of being caught by police in the process of buying. Other arms such as knives (axes and so on) are not so lethal, especially, in inexperienced hands, and give a bigger chance for victims to escape or use self-defence. The “chain” of getting legal permission should be longer as it gives a chance to see the abnormal behaviour of a person, who wants to buy an arm. The minimum age for legal possession should be increased.

Shooting and hunting clubs should also receive constructive support from law enforcement and psychologists on situational awareness and active shooters’ profiles. It is worth policymakers considering that this might be an obligation for a club to gain a licence to operate.

All recent cases show the urgent necessity for discussing and addressing the mental health of young people and teenagers. Despite some very positive developments in this area, it is still taboo for serious discussion without stigmatising these people.

The challenge for educational environments is finding a balance between security and activity to identify the few who may cause harm versus enabling the many to live lives unimpeded by onerous security restrictions.

About the Author

Lina Kolesnikova is a Fellow of ICPEM and a Representative to EU institutions. She is a Member of Advisory Board of Crisis Response Journal and CBRNE-Terrorism Newsletter. Lina provides consultancy in the areas of security, risk and crisis management to a number of organisations within both the private and public sectors.


Lina has researched and written more than hundred articles on a wide range of issues arising from recent events on the global scene and is also a frequent speaker and moderator at international meetings.

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