Four explosions have shaken the Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk injuring at least 29 people. The blasts struck a series of locations in the city center. Local authorities have begun a terrorist investigation into the incident.
Interfax reports that at least ten children were among the wounded.
The first explosion went off as a crowded tram pulled into a stop injuring five passengers. Local authorities say it was caused by a bomb planted in a nearby rubbish bin.
“The explosion was at a tram stop. The shockwaves smashed the tram’s windows, and the doors buckled on two cars passing by. In one car, the airbags popped out. Police were there in a minute, fire fighters arrived in about five minutes,” writes Master_Tyre, a city web forum user.
Forty minutes afterwards a second explosion was reported close to the city’s railway station, wounding seven while the third hit a park injuring one woman.
Authorities say that the fourth blast struck near the opera house close to the site of the first explosion.
It has been reported that some of the explosions were caused by “incendiary devices” planted in rubbish bins. As a consequence police are systematically removing bins and checking them throughout the city.
Authorities have reportedly begun the full evacuation of the Dnepropetrovsk train station causing a stampede of people towards the exits. Local media says sniffer dogs and members of the bomb squad have arrived at the scene after receiving an anonymous call saying there was a threat of an explosion at the station.
Train services have stopped running until further notice.
Local Ukrainian site vgorode.ua reports widespread panic in the city where people are afraid where the next explosion will occur. Traffic has reportedly ground to a halt in the city center as people flee their offices in an attempt to get home. The city’s police have warned citizens to stay indoors. Interior troops have been deployed in the city.
Telephone networks are down in the city after being inundated with calls of people fearing for the safety of their friends and family. Some news agencies have also suggested authorities may have shutdown networks to curtail possible terrorist activity.
It is unclear exactly how many explosions have hit the city with some local media outlets reporting up to ten.
Ukrainian president Viktor Yankovich has announced the creation of a group of specialists that will investigate the blasts. Moscow will assist in the probe, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said.
“Our best investigators and detectives will be looking into the incident,” said Yankovich.
Local media reported the first arrests in connection with the explosions, citing the Interior Ministry. But a senior security official denied the reports, saying he was unable to confirm the information about the suspects.
Ukraine is set to host the Euro 2012 football championship in June. Matches will be held in Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkiv and Lviv. Authorities have already vowed to guarantee security for the event.
UEFA says it will not cancel the upcoming championship, or change its location.
“This event does not change UEFA’s confidence in the security measures that have been developed by the authorities in view of UEFA EURO 2012, and which will ensure a smooth and festive tournament,” an official statement read.
History of terrorist attacks
Donetsk is the closest major city to Dnepropetrovsk and has been put on high alert following the explosions, given that it has a history of recent terror attacks.
On January 20, 2011, two bombs rocked the Ukrainian city of Makeevka in the Donetsk region. One was placed in a phone booth near a shopping center and another 600 meters away in a rubbish bin. No-one was injured in the two explosions.
However, unknown individuals demanded four million euros from Makeevka authorities, threatening to detonate more bombs around the city if their demands were not met. Later two men were arrested in connection with the blasts and charged with acts of terrorism.
November 2011, a rubbish bin exploded on the sidewalk of Karl Marx Avenue in Dnepropetrovsk killing one person. Just like in January, the alleged organizers of the attack demanded 5 million euros and warned that explosions would strike the city of Donetsk if authorities did not comply.