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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Troops Guard Hamlet From Serial Killer

Troops and armored personnel carriers have been sent to a tiny village on Ukraine's Polish border as protection against a serial killer who is suspected of killing more than 40 people in three months by slaughtering whole families and torching their houses, Ukrainian Interior Ministry spokesmen said Friday.

According to Alexander Yevashchenko, a senior investigator in the Ukrainian Criminal Investigation department, a division of national guard troops, complete with armored personnel carriers and bazookas, have been sent to protect the tiny hamlet of Bratkovichi, some 50 kilometers west of Lviv.

The village of 1,500 people and the rural area surrounding it have been the site of more than 40 murders since December, he said.

"If this is one person, and we think it is, then it is absolutely the worst killer Ukraine has ever seen, and we think now it may be the worst crime spree not only in our country, but in all history," pedestrian who apparently encountered the killer as he left the crime scene were murdered in Bratkovichi. On Jan. 17, five more were killed in the village -- a family of three and two more pedestrians. And last week, on March 22, another family of four -- a husband and wife, their daughter and the wife's deaf-mute sister -- were found shot to death in the neighboring town of Busk.

Yevashchenko declined to name the dates of any of the other killings, but said that the total number of victims since the end of January is "over 40 and climbing."

The killer has kept to a strict modus operandi in most of his crimes, leaving a spiral of footprints around each house and shooting his victims at point-blank range, at a distance of less than 100 centimeters.

After several of the killings, he has traveled in the direction of the center of the village, where police then lost his tracks.

Police have no idea what the motive for the killings might be. Yevashchenko said there was no evidence of sexual abuse in the crimes.

According to Viktor Krivorodko, a press spokesman for the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, more than a hundred investigators of the Lviv police force have been on the case at one time or another since December. Furthermore, investigators from several difference law enforcement agencies -- including Federal Security investigators, soldiers from the "Berkuta" (the Ukrainian version of Russia's OMON special forces), and Federal investigators from the Criminal Investigation Department -- have been sent to the area in addition to the dispatch of national guard troops.

Local citizens have also taken measures to protect themselves. Bratkovichi, like many rural villages in Ukraine and Russia, had no streetlights and virtually no telephones before the killings began.

Now, according to Yevashchenko, the whole town has been lighted and additional telephones have been installed in several locations in the center of town.

"The villagers are barricading their houses, bolting their windows down, and staying at home," he said.

If one killer is indeed responsible for more than 40 deaths in three months, it would constitute perhaps the bloodiest sequence of serial killings ever recorded. Andrei Chikatilo, the "Rostov Ripper," who claimed 52 victims, has often been called the worst serial killer in modern history. But Chikatilo committed his murders over the course of 17 years.

Russia and the former Soviet republics have seen an explosion of reported serial murders, particularly serial sexual murders, in the years since perestroika.

According to Alexander Tkachenko of the Serbsky Institute for Criminal Psychiatry, which examines serial killers to determine their sanity for court cases, close to 100 serial killers have been arrested in Russia in the last 10 years.

Alexander Bukhanovsky, the Rostov-on-Don psychiatrist and serial killer expert who became renowned for his assistance to police in the Chikatilo case, said that southern Russia and the Ukraine is an area of "unusual concentration" of serial killers.

"I found in my research that certain areas of the world tend to have a concentration of psychopathic murderers, and this area is probably the worst," he said. "Rostov-on-Don, Kharkov, Sevastopol, Taganrog, Stavropol -- all of these places have seen serial killers in recent years. Chikatilo was only the most famous."