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Ukraine ammunition depot fires and explosions cause mass evacuation

09 October 2018

Explosions and fire have hit an ammunition depot at Ichnya in the Chernihiv region of Ukraine in a possible act of sabotage, officials said, leading to a mass evacuation. About 12,000 people were moved from the area around the depot, about 109 miles (176km) north-east of the capital Kiev. There were no reported casualties.

Stock image
Stock image

Deputy commander of the General Staff Rodyon Tymoshenko told a news conference the incident began with four explosions across the depot. "The intensity of the blasts suggests that it was most probably sabotage," he said. Security services are now investigating the incident.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman earlier tweeted that local authorities would provide accommodation for the evacuated, and that emergency services were on hand to help people.

A 20km radius airspace closure came into effect, emergency services said. Rail and road links in the area are also suspended, and gas and electricity supplies have been disrupted.

Ammunition depot explosions have happened before in Ukraine, as the country continues its fight against pro-Russian separatists in its eastern regions. Moscow denies sending troops and weapons to help separatists in the conflict, but admits that Russian "volunteers" are helping the rebels.

In September 2017, 28,000 people were evacuated after a huge fire raged at a military arms depot in central Ukraine, while in March that same year an ammo dump at a base near Kharkiv suffered a series of explosions.

In these earlier fires, Ukraine has accused Russia of dropping grenades from drones to spark the conflagrations.

Ammunition depot explosions may well be due to Russian involvement, but some observers say another possibility is that old Soviet-era munitions in Ukraine are stored inadequately and explode when left in proximity to faulty electrics or other ignition sources.

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