A woman prays near a memorial to the people killed during an attack in the vocational college in Kerch, Crimea, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018.
A woman prays near a memorial to the people killed during an attack in the vocational college in Kerch, Crimea, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018.

Russian authorities in Crimea are trying to determine if the student who fatally shot at least 20 people and wounded more than 50 others at his vocational school in the Black Sea city of Kerch had an accomplice.  

Sergie Aksyonov, the Kremlin-appointed leader of Crimea, said at a Moscow news conference Thursday that shooter Vyacheslav Roslyakov, who committed suicide, could not have carried out the mass shooting without help.

"The  point is to find out who was coaching him for this crime," Aksyonov said. "He was acting on his own here, we know that. But this scoundrel could not have prepared this attack on his own, in my opinion, and according to my colleagues."

Despite Aksyonov's belief that Roslyakov received help, Russian investigators and other authorities did not pursue that possibility hours after the attack. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the attack was the "result of globalization."

"On social media, on the internet, we see that there is a whole community that has been created. Everything started with the tragic events in schools in the U.S.," Putin said at an international policy forum in Sochi.

Refat Chubarov, chairman of the Mejlis — the Crimean Tatars self-governing body that Russia has outlawed — told reporters in Kyiv that he was convinced Russian authorities would use the school shooting as an excuse to target any people, especially Crimean Tatars, who are opposed to Kremlin rule of the annexed territory.

"In the face of this teenager who became a murderer, we see the product of the Putin regime and the reign of his era," said Chubarov on the sidelines of a Verkhovna Rada legislative session. "Why would this happen in Crimea? Because Russian propaganda assumes its most aggressive form in the occupied territory."

Chubarov also predicted that Russian-backed security forces will begin ratcheting up pressure and possibly detaining any locals opposed to the occupation.

Russia forcibly annexed Crimea from Ukraine four years ago, a development that prompted the West to impose economic sanctions on Russia. 

Russian authorities have since repeatedly warned of terrorism threats from unnamed Ukranian nationalists and the Tatars, an ethnic group that is indigenous to Crimea. Despite rallies and acts of defiance, the groups are not known to have committed violent acts in Crimea. 

Residents placed flowers and toys at a makeshift memorial outside Kerch Polytechnic College, where the shootings occurred. 

Dozens of injured remained hospitalized in Kerch and the first of the dead was to be buried Thursday.  At least 10 of the most seriously wounded people have been flown to Russian hospitals for surgery, according to the Associated Press.   

VOA's Ukrainian Service contributed to this report.