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Artillery Warehouses Explode, Evacuations Ordered Around Vinnytsya In Ukraine

Ukraine -- Explosions at ammunition depot in Kalynivka, Vinnytsa region, 27Sep2017 (source: Twitter @Yurko_sViy)

By RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

Artillery warehouses on a Ukrainian military installation exploded late on September 26 in Kalynivka near the city of Vinnytsya in Ukraine, forcing an evacuation of residents, police and local residents said.

Witnesses said that after an initial loud explosion, bright flashes were visible in the night sky. Some residents said they feared the smoke and fire from the explosion might produce toxic gases.

Local media reported that the explosive wave knocked out the windows in the Kalynivka district state administration, where an emergency headquarters for teams seeking to put out the explosions and fire was later gathered.

Witnesses said the sound of explosions could be heard as far away as Kyiv, which is 260 kilometers to the northeast. Local media said that in Kalynivka, officials turned off the lights and disconnected gas and electricity supplies and told people to leave their homes.

Shortly after the explosions, the chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, General Viktor Muzhenko, and Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman arrived in Vinnytsya, authorities said.

The national police said police were evacuating people from Kalynivka and were working to ensure the protection of their property from looters. The deputy head of the national police, Oleksandr Fatsevych, was dispatched to Vinnytsya.

Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Information Policy Dmytro Zolotukhin said the explosion was an apparent accident and authorities are working to bring the situation under control while evacuating residents.

Zoryan Shkiryar, an adviser to the head of the Interior Ministry, said on Facebook that he was "convinced that this is a hostile Russian sabotage," and said it was the seventh fire at military warehouses in Kalynivka.

He said a state commission of inquiry will be set up to investigate the cause of the explosions.

A volunteer of the Avtoevrozile organization of Vinnytsya, Ihor Rumyantsev, told RFE/RL that he saw about 10 buses arrive to evacuate people. He said he was helping to evacuate residents, giving priority to women and children.

Early on September 27, Rumyantsev said the explosions started to increase, doubling in size, prompting people to hide in their cellars.

Rumyantsev said the railway connection in the area had completely stopped. Ukrzaliznytsya reported a change in railroad routes due to the explosions.

An employee of the Vinnytsya Oblast Council, Iryna Yaroshynska, confirmed the rerouting of trains going through Kalynivka.

Ukraerocenter closed the airspace within a radius of 50 kilometers from the zone of explosions in the military warehouses, Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Yuriy Lavrenyuk said on Facebook.

Residents posted video online showing what appeared to be a fire burning, lights flashing, and smoke billowing into the night sky.