Ukraine's president to visit blast scene
Posted Saturday, April 28 2012 at 11:50
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was Saturday expected to visit the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk rocked by a series of explosions that injured 26 people ahead of the Euro-2012 football tournament.
Four blasts went off in central Dnipropetrovsk on Friday, wounding 26, the emergency situations ministry said Saturday, revising an earlier figure of 27.
It said that 22 people remained in hospital, with three in a serious condition, one of them a teenager.
Yanukovych who called the attacks a challenge to the nation was expected to visit the Russian-speaking city later in the day joining top officials including the interior minister, after prosecutors opened a probe into possible terrorism.
The so-far unclaimed attacks came just weeks before Ukraine and Poland co-host the the European football championship, starting June 8, and coincided with an anti-terrorism security drill at a host stadium in Kiev.
Yanukovych has vowed a tough response to the attack.
"We know that there are victims, we understand that this is another challenge for the entire nation," he said while visiting a factory in Crimea on the Black Sea.
He vowed to punish the perpetrators and anyone plotting "crimes directed at destabilising the situation in Dnipropetrovsk," though security officials said Friday evening no arrests had been made.
Ukrainian prosecutors launched a probe into possible terrorism, with top officials including Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko quickly leaving for Dnipropetrovsk on the Dnieper River to oversee the investigation.
No information was released as to the possible perpetrators. A similar series of explosions in eastern Ukraine in January 2011 was linked by officials to an attempt to extort money.
Though Dnipropetrovsk is not a host city in the country's first major international sports event, it lies on the route of a tour the trophy will be taken on, due in the city on one million May 21.
Dnipropetrovsk is also the home town of Yanukovych's fiercest foe, the 2004 Orange Revolution leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who is serving a disputed jail sentence that has strained Ukraine's ties with the European Union.
The first bomb, hidden in a trash bin near a tram stop, exploded at 11:50 am (0850 GMT) as a tram was pulling away.
"I heard a very loud explosion," said one witness, a middle-aged woman, who ran after the tram as its doors closed. "Then the tram reopened the doors, and people were jumping out in a panic," she said.
The blast shattered windows in the tram, sending glass shards flying as far as 20 metres (65 feet).
Doctors tended to the injured, including a woman in her 50s with leg wounds who was loaded into an emergency van.
Three more blasts followed over the next hour, all in the same busy part of the city not far from the train station and the river. The last explosion was heard at 1:00 pm (1000 GMT).
A total of 25 people were hospitalised, officials said.