Ukraine's Chief Military Prosecutor has issued arrest warrants for three servicemen allegedly responsible for last week's fire in artillery depots near the southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol.
As the press service of the Ukrainian Prosecutor-General's Office told RIA Novosti, an inquiry has established that the fire broke out owing to the servicemen's neglect for safety rules. They were smoking while piling up ammunition; one put a lit cigarette into an empty gunpowder sack-just for fun. As they saw senior officers approaching, they hastily stashed the burning sack into the ammunition piles, surrounded with gunpowder dust. The servicemen went for lunch ten minutes afterward; several minutes after they left, a fire broke out.
As the investigators have found out, these same depots caught fire last summer, too, but back then, firefighters managed to quickly contain the blaze. The commander of the military unit operating the depots failed to take measures to avoid a repeat. He also neglected repeated requests from the Prosecutor's Office and the Emergencies Ministry that he should deal with reported violations of weaponry and ammunition storage rules in his unit.
The Prosecutor's Office has now launched legal proceedings against the man. He was detained May 8 on negligence charges. On May 11, a court extended his detention term by ten days.
The devastating fire, which broke out on May 6, took a few days to extinguish and claimed at least five lives. About 7,000 people had to be evacuated from nearby settlements for security concerns. Railroads and highways in the surrounding area had to be temporarily closed to traffic. Now, all the evacuees have returned to their homes.
Several Defense Ministry officials are also under investigation in connection with the depot fire.