Four explosions struck the Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk, injuring at least 29 people, among them at least 10 children. The blasts went off at a series of locations in the city center. Local authorities have launched a terrorist investigation.
The first bomb exploded as a crowded tram pulled into a stop, injuring five passengers. Authorities say it was caused by a bomb planted in a nearby rubbish bin.
“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 user of Dnepropetrovsk's city web forum.
Forty minutes later, a second explosion rocked an area close to the city’s railway station, wounding seven. The third bomb went off in a park, injuring one woman. And yet a fourth blast struck near an opera house not far from 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 systematically removed and checked rubbish bins throughout the city.
After receiving an anonymous call saying there was a threat of an explosion, authorities began a full evacuation of the Dnepropetrovsk train station. This caused a stampede of people running towards the exits. Local media reported sniffer dogs and a bomb squad arriving at the scene. The train station resumed work later in the evening, and no explosives have been found.
Ukrainian site vgorode.ua reported widespread panic in Dnepropetrovsk. People were afraid the next explosion could occur at any time in any place. Traffic reportedly ground to a halt in the city center as people fled their offices in an attempt to get home. The police have warned citizens to stay indoors, while Interior Ministry troops have been deployed in the city.
Telephone networks were down, overloaded with people calling their friends and family members to check on their safety. However, news agencies suggested authorities may have shut down the networks to curtail possible terrorist activity.
For a long time it was unclear exactly how many explosions hit the city – with some local media outlets reporting up to ten.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said a group of specialists will investigate the blasts. Russia and Poland agreed to assist in the probe.
First Deputy Chief of Ukraine's National Security Service Vladimir Rokitsky said his agency requested foreign help, and that Russia and Poland "immediately offered assistance."
Local media were quick to report the first arrests in connection with the explosions, citing the Interior Ministry. However, a senior security official denied the reports, saying he was unable to confirm information about any 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 the event's security for the event, and 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.
Donetsk is the closest major city to Dnepropetrovsk, and has been put on high alert following the explosions, given that it has a recent history of 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 either explosion.
However, unknown individuals demanded four million euro 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.
In November 2011, a rubbish bin exploded on the sidewalk of Karl Marx Avenue in Dnepropetrovsk, killing one person. As in January, the alleged organizers of the attack demanded 5 million euro and warned that explosions would strike the city of Donetsk if authorities did not comply.