Four arrests after horrific massacre at Russian farm

Emergency workers stand outside the house where the murders occurred It appears the killers tried to cover their traces by setting the house alight

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Police in the south Russian region of Krasnodar have arrested four men for the murder of a wealthy farmer and 11 other people at his village home.

Eight adults and two children were found stabbed to death inside the burning farmhouse, along with the bodies of two other children.

The cold-blooded murder of infants as young as nine months, one of them in her grandfather's arms, shocked Russia.

At least three of those arrested are from the same village.

Emergency services went to the large, two-storey farmhouse in Kushchevskaya, an old Cossack village, last Thursday night after reports of a fire, Russian media report.

Inside they found the bodies of farmer Serever Ametov and members of his extended family including his brother-in-law, businessman Vladimir Mironenko. One child had choked to death on toxic fumes and another had been strangled.

The remains of two of Ametov's neighbours were also discovered and the family guard dog was found injected with a tranquiliser.

Those killed were

  • Serever Ametov, 51, and his wife Galina, 48
  • The Ametovs' daughter-in-law Yelena, 19, and her nine-month-old daughter Amira, whom Ametov was holding when they were killed
  • Vladimir Mironenko, 48, and his wife Marina, with their daughters Alyona, one, and Irina, five
  • Lidia and Viktor Ignatenko, the parents of Marina and Galina
  • The Ametovs' neighbour Natalya Kasyanova, 36, and her son Pavel, 14, who had apparently come to the farm looking for his mother and arrived in the middle of the massacre
'Personal hostility'
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On Thursday, Russian prosecutors announced the arrest of three murder suspects: brothers Alexei and Yevgeny Gurov, and Vyacheslav Skachedub, all aged between 17 and 24. The three were allegedly in possession of drugs.

The arrest of a fourth murder suspect, 16-year-old Igor Maidanyuk, was announced a few hours later. It was not immediately clear if he was also from Kushchevskaya.

Earlier, prosecutors said the motive for the killings might have been "personal hostility towards one of the dead", and they described two of those arrested as "active members of a gang" operating in the region.

Theories that the attack might been inspired by terrorist or racist motives - Ametov was a Crimean Tartar - were discounted early on.

It is said that in his youth, Ametov was involved in neighbourhood gangs but he "settled down" after meeting his Russian wife Galina and became a prosperous private farmer who helped his local community.

Sections of the Russian media speculate that the real target of the attack was Mironenko, who had been financial director of a food company employing 3,000 people in the city of Rostov-on-Don.

But if the killers had wanted to murder only the businessman it is unclear why they chose to attack him far from his home and at the risk of being identified by so many witnesses.

Writing an analysis piece for the Russian news website lenta.ru, journalist Tatyana Yefremenko notes that one peculiarity of the case is that Ametov's wife was stabbed with particular ferocity. Galina Ametova received 18 knife wounds in all.

Another theory for the killings is that they were meant as a brutal warning from organised crime in the region seeking to control the private farming sector.

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