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City news, 01.12.2009 16:15

Moscow-St. Petersburg Train Derails, Killing 26 People

The Nevsky Express train The Nevsky Express train from Moscow to St. Petersburg, carrying 661 passengers, yesterday suffered a serious impact or explosion, derailing several cars and killing at least 26 people, near the village of Uglovka. A small crater found near the tracks and an engineer’s testimony that an explosion had occurred have led investigators to suspect a bomb attack as the cause for the tragedy.

The prosecutors’ office is said to be calling the incident a terrorist act and seeking charges on crimes related to illegal possession of explosives and terrorist activity. Vladimir Yakunin, head of the Russian Federation’s rail authority, says an “unidentified device” exploded under the train, causing three cars to derail. Reports from the scene clearly suggest certain cars were mangled and burned, while others remain nearly intact, possible evidence of a concentrated fire.

There are also indications one or more cars may have had a section of roof blown out, but there was no confirmation on what had caused specific visible damage to the cars. A forensic investigation is underway, with a focus on searching for evidence of explosives or any kind of illegal interference with the train’s normal functioning.

One witness told Russian radio that there had been an “almighty crash”, suggestive of breaking through a “some kind of obstacle”. He specified that he heard no explosion. But the terrorist angle is a focus for prosectors. There was a similar derailment, “analogous” in Yakunin’s words, on the same line, three years ago.

According to the Guardian:

Russian prosecutors blamed the earlier derailment on Chechen extremists, who have been fighting an on-off war against the Russian state for two decades. There are daily attacks on security forces in the republics of Ingushetia, Chechnya and Dagestan.

The attack, if attributed to any separatist element in the Caucasus region, could lead to a military response and deteriorating security conditions well outside the conflict zone. The derailment is likely to inflame tensions and put Pres. Medvedev’s efforts to secure peace under severe stress. More hardline elements in the Russian government, like those loyal to Vladimir Putin, are likely to seek to raise their profile on security grounds.

News source:

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