Moscow-A Russian soldier suspected of killing three of his colleagues using an axe and a gun at a military base has been detained after a huge manhunt, officials said.

The suspect “has been detained by law enforcement agencies,” the military said in a statement carried by the state news agency TASS.

He was now being interrogated, it added. The 20-year-old soldier identified as private Anton Makarov was detained following a massive manhunt. More than 100 members of the national guard as well as drones had taken part in the search operation, a spokesman said.

Investigators said Makarov attacked an officer at the Baltimore military airfield near the city of Voronezh at 5:30 am (0130 GMT).

Voronezh is located more than 500 kilometres (310 miles) south of Moscow.

“In order to get hold of a service weapon Makarov killed an officer with an axe,” the Investigative Committee, which probes serious crimes, said in a statement. 

He then started shooting his fellow servicemen, killing two and wounding one, the statement said.

An unidentified source told the Interfax news agency that the shooting started when an altercation broke out between the soldier and an officer during an inspection.

The soldier “grabbed a handgun” from the officer’s holster and fired, Interfax reported.

Russia’s Western Military District however denied that a conflict had taken place.

Shootings at military bases in Russia are not uncommon and rights groups have sounded the alarm over brutal hazing rituals that were routine in the 1990s but have improved in recent years.