Sat, 06 Jun 2020

Kyiv says it has sent in tanks and aircraft to fight a massive fire as explosions continued at an arms depot in northern Ukraine on October 10.

More than 12,000 people were evacuated after ammunition stored at the depot near the town of Ichnya began exploding early on October 9, sparking a huge blaze.

Ukraine's Security Service (SBU) said earlier that it was looking into all possible leads, including sabotage, at the depot about 135 kilometers northeast of Kyiv.

The Armed Forces General Staff announced on October 10 that the guarding of all military depots across the country had been beefed up.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak said at a cabinet meeting on October 10 that he has 'no doubt' that the explosions near Ichnya 'were attacks on our depots.'

According to Poltorak, the depot contained about 70,000 tons of ammunition over 680 hectares, an estimated 43,000 tons of which were 'ready to use.'

Ukraine's State Emergency Service said on October 10 that two engineering vehicles, four firefighting military tanks, and two planes are involved in extinguishing the fire.

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There have been several explosions and fires at Ukrainian arms depots in recent years, amid fighting between government forces and the Russia-backed separatists who hold parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, a few hundred kilometers southeast of the depot site.

The war has killed more than 10,300 people since it began after Russia seized Crimea in 2014 and fomented separatism following the ouster of Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled in the face of months of pro-European protests in Kyiv.

Cease-fire deals signed in Belarus's capital, Minsk, in September 2014 and February 2015 have failed to end the conflict.

In March 2017, a massive deflagration at a munitions depot near the eastern city of Kharkiv prompted the evacuation of about 20,000 residents living within a 20-kilometer radius of the site.

And in September 2017, more than 30,000 people were evacuated after artillery warehouses on a military installation exploded in the Vinnytsya region, southwest of Kyiv.

Authorities have frequently blamed the blasts on sabotage, and the government has allocated 100 million hryvnyas ($3.6 million) for the protection of the country's ammunition storage facilities.

With reporting by UNIAN,, and AFP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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