Sun, Apr 29, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Blasts in Ukraine injure 26 as Euro 2012 approaches

MYSTERY EXPLOSIONS:No group has come forward to claim the attacks, but they are similar to blasts last year that officials had linked to an attempt to extort money

AFP, DNIPROPETROVSK, UKRAINE

At least 26 people were wounded on Friday in a series of explosions in Ukraine, posing a major security challenge in the run-up to the Euro-2012 soccer tournament.

Four blasts rocked central Dnipropetrovsk around noon, emergency officials said as police combed the city for more explosives. Four people were in serious condition and nine children were among the wounded.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych vowed a tough response to the unclaimed attack, which came just weeks before Ukraine and Poland co-host the European soccer championship, starting on June 8.

“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 destabilizing the situation in Dnipropetrovsk,” though security officials said on Friday evening that no arrests had been made.

Prosecutors in the Ukraine launched a probe into possible terrorism, with top officials including Ukrainian 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 last year 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 of 1 million on May 21.

Dnipropetrovsk is also the home town of Yanukovych’s fiercest foe, the 2004 Orange Revolution leader, former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is serving a disputed jail sentence that has strained Ukraine’s ties with the EU.

The first bomb, hidden in a trash bin near a tram stop, exploded at 11:50am 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 20m.

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