UGLOVKA, Russia, Saturday
At least 39 people were killed and nearly 100 injured when a Russian express train was derailed late on Friday in what the head of the national railway company said could have been a bomb attack.
Russian prosecutors said today they had opened a criminal case on charges of terrorism and illegal possession of explosives but did not say who they suspected of responsibility or what their motives might have been. “... a blast from an explosive device is one of the main explanations for the Nevsky Express incident,” Russian Railways chief Vladimir Yakunin told reporters at the scene.
He later told Vesti-24 state television that investigators believed the blast was “to put it simply, an act of terrorism.” The Nevsky Express, carrying 661 passengers from Moscow to St Petersburg, was derailed at 9:34pm (1834 GMT) near the village of Uglovka about 350 km north of Moscow.
A Reuters photographer saw soldiers carrying four body bags away from the scene where rescue workers cut through the tangled steel to search for survivors in two wrecked train carriages. Emergencies minister Sergei Shoigu was told by a ministry official in a video conference shown live on Vesti-24 that more bodies had been pulled from wrecked carriages and the death toll had risen to 39.
Shoigu later said that 25 people had been confirmed dead but the toll could rise as 18 people were still unaccounted for. The derailment is Russia’s worst train disaster for years and could raise fears of a surge in attacks on the Russian heartland by rebels from the North Caucasus.
“The so-called Chechen trace is traditionally viewed as the main one during investigations of such disasters,” said Alexei Mukhin of the Centre for Political Information, adding that outdated infrastructure also caused major accidents in Russia. In Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: “We are deeply saddened by the terrible loss of life and injuries resulting from the accident.”