Medvedev says heads may roll over arms depot blasts

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov to launch an investigation into two explosions at military arms depots and warned that dismissals may be necessary.

An accident at an artillery depot in the Volga region republic of Udmurtia on Thursday that caused two deaths came a week after a similar incident at a base in the neighboring republic of Bashkortostan.

“Two times is already systemic. Prepare proposals for me about who must answer for this and how. Since they do not understand the nice way…it is necessary to take away their shoulder straps,” Medvedev said, suggesting that officers could lose their rank or be dismissed.

“Hold an investigation,” Medvedev told Serdyukov. “Of course, a separate investigation will be carried by the Investigation Committee and other departments.”

The accident at the artillery depot near the village of Pugachevo in Udmurtia began at around 11:10 p.m. local time [19:10 GMT] on Thursday when the first shells exploded. The facility belongs to the Defense Ministry’s missile and artillery directorate and is tasked mainly with munitions disposal.

Two people died from heart attacks caused by stress from the explosions and at least 52 have been injured, a spokesman for the Emergencies Ministry said on Friday.

The Defense Ministry has reported one person as missing in the incident, but did not say whether the individual was a civilian or a military serviceman.

According to Medvedev’s press service, some 13,500 people were evacuated from the nearby residential areas because of the exploding shells. The regional emergencies department said 28,000 people were evacuated but most have since returned home.

Last Thursday, a military arsenal in the republic of Bashkortostan, which borders Udmurtia, was rocked by a series of explosions as artillery ammunition exploded, causing the evacuation of nearby residents. No one died in that incident but a number of houses were destroyed, leaving 160 people homeless.

GORKY, June 3 (RIA Novosti)

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