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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Teenage Girls Disappear in Altai

At least five teenage girls have disappeared in Barnaul while visiting a university in the Altai city to apply for admission. Police say they have no clues as to their whereabouts.

Barnaul police spokeswoman Yelena Kravchuk said Friday her force is probing "many leads" including possibilities that the girls fell victim to a serial killer or a gang of sex-slave traders. But no suspects have been detained despite weeks of intensive search and questioning of thousands of people, she said by telephone.

Yulia Tikhtiyekova, 17, told her parents she was going to "take a walk" to Altai State Technical University, or AGTU, on July 26 to apply for admission. She has not been seen since, said Boris Syomkin, deputy director of the university.

Two days later, Liliana Voznyuk, also 17, went for a pre-examination consultation only to disappear too, he said.

Olga Shmakova vanished Aug. 1 after leaving her Barnaul home for the college to learn her examination results.

Kravchuk said it was only after the third female applicant disappeared that police began to suspect a link and took measures to boost security at AGTU, which has 10,800 students.

More police were dispatched to the campus, and more than 170 students joined the patrol, Syomkin said.

Despite these measures, two more applicants vanished in August in broad daylight. Anzhela Burdakova, 17, disappeared when she went to AGTU to learn whether she had been admitted.

Barnaul police said they responded by dispatching more officers as well as dogs to comb college buildings.

But one week later, Ksenia Kyrgyzova, 17, who had been admitted to the college, went to meet her college classmates on Aug. 15 only to go missing too.

Police have since questioned all 8,000 people who took entrance examinations at AGTU between July 15 and 29 and could have met the five applicants, Kravchuk said. Police patrols have searched the banks of the local river and construction sites near AGTU, but to no avail.

Barnaul police force are also looking for two mothers of college applicants who disappeared in July after going to two other local colleges to find out what exams their children needed to take.