Ukraine's capability to secure its own weapons caches is under scrutiny, with military investigators revealing lax practices at the warehouse where a fire broke out. The blaze forced thousands of people to flee.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Ukraine's chief military prosecutor Anatoliy Matios said investigators were looking into possible negligence, abuse of power or sabotage by those authorized to handle the munitions. Earlier, Ukrainian authorities had implied the fire could have been an act of foreign sabotage.
An estimated 30,000 people have been forced to evacuate the area surrounding the military base in the central Vinnytsia region after a fire broke out at a warehouse late Tuesday. It set off a series of explosions. Local authorities estimated about 188,000 tons of munitions were stored at the depot.
Electricity and gas supplies were cut off in the area and transport routes shut down, leading to widespread train delays. Firefighters in Kalynivka were still attempting to put out the blaze on Thursday. There were no reported fatalities but two people were reported injured.
Matios said the fire alarm system at the depot was out of order and the security force was understaffed and under-equipped.
"The main issue which must be addressed is the personnel problem of guards whose salaries are very low, and in general security is carried out by elderly people, who certainly don't have hawk-eye vision," Matios told reporters, as quoted by Reuters news agency.
Massive military losses
The fire was the second major incident to affect a large weapons warehouse in Ukraine this year. In March an explosion at a large depot in the eastern town of Balaklija killed one person.
"It will be hard for the government to restore the military reserves that have been destroyed by explosions over the past two years," Matios said.
Ukraine government forces have been fighting pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine since April 2014. The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people and left more than a million displaced. Various ceasefire deals agreed to between Ukrainian, Russian and European leaders have failed to completely halt the violence.
se/kms (Reuters, dpa, AP)