UARU
Munitions Warehouse Explosion Fills Sky With Fire in Central Ukraine
27 September, 2017

The Ukrainian government has evacuated tens of thousands of people and closed air space over a fifty mile radius after a munitions depot exploded in central Ukraine.

The blast occurred on the night of September 26 and sent apocalyptic clouds of fire into the skies over the town of Kalynivka in Ukraine’s Vinnytsya region. Regional authorities say two women were injured — one during the explosion, and the other while evacuating the area.

Photo credit: EPA-EFE/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

According to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, more than 30,000 people have been evacuated from the town. However, Vasyl Polishchuk, chairman of Kalynivka’s city council, says that only around 18 thousand people have left the city.

In the explosion’s aftermath, the authorities have halted virtually all bus traffic in the area, diverted trains, closed roads, and shut off electricity and natural gas provision to the surrounding area. They also closed the airport in Vinnytsya, the regional center, although they say that city is not under threat.

Explosions continued throughout the night. However, by 4 a.m., they were occurring less frequently, Prime Minister Volodymyr Groisman said in a video on Twitter. However, by 5 a.m. the explosions had started up again, a soldier from a unit positioned in Stryzhavka, 15 kilometers from Kalynivka told Hromadske.

The explosions have sent shell shards and shrapnel flying great distances — including to Shryzhavka, the soldier said. A Hromadske correspondent reporting from a highway several kilometers away from the munitions warehouse also found shell fragments lining the road.

Photo credit: EPA-EFE/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

Evacuees are currently, being housed in schools and hospitals. Residents of Vinnytsya are also sheltering people fleeing the blaze in Kalynivka.

President Poroshenko has scheduled a meeting of his military cabinet — which includes the heads of virtually all the country’s security agencies — for when the officials return from the scene of the emergency.

Photo credit: Dmytro Replianchuk/HROMADSKE

The Ukrainian military prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into possible sabotage at the munitions warehouse. Additionally, Prime-Minister Groisman claimed that “external factors” were at work in the explosion. In a Facebook post, presidential advisor Yury Biryukov suggested that a drone could have been used to set off the explosion.

Yurii Levchenko

However, Ukraine has a bad history with munitions storage. There have been four such munitions depot fires and explosions since the start of the Ukraine crisis in 2014. Although the Ukrainian authorities have been known to allege sabotage, poor storage could also be to blame.

Even Biryukov admitted as much in his Facebook post. “Storing munitions in the open air is not our invention. It’s a common practice,” he wrote. “Of course, we’d like it to be deeper [underground]. But that will take millions of dollars for construction that our budget just doesn’t have.”

/by Matthew Kupfer​