At least 27 people, including nine children, were injured after four separate bombs exploded in Ukraine on Apr. 27, just six weeks ahead of the European Soccer Championships (Euro 2012). The bombs rocked the city of Dnipropetrovsk in the eastern section of the country which is to co-host Euro 2012 along with Poland.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said there will be a firm response to the bombings, but the nation faces a tough challenge ahead of the soccer tournament that is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors between June 8 and July 1. Twenty-five of the injured people were taken to hospital while police were searching the through the city for more possible bombs.
Dnipropetrovsk is the third-largest city in Ukraine, but isn’t one of the host venues for the Euro 2012 tournament. However, it’s listed on the route for the trophy tour that’s scheduled to take place there on May 21. It’s located about 60 miles from the host city of Donetsk, which is scheduled to hold its first games on June 11. Police and security officials will now have a very tough job ahead of them as Ukraine prepares to host its first major international sporting event.
The city of Dnipropetrovsk is the hometown of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is the leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution and a fierce opponent of President Yanukovych. Tymoshenko is currently in prison serving a controversial seven-year sentence for abuse of power and this has strained the relations between Ukraine and the European Union. The 51-year-old Tymoshenko went on a hunger strike on Apr. 20 and claimed she was beaten while in prison.
Television footage from Russia showed people crowded around a tram stop after one of the explosions. Residents were helping the wounded and were seen making temporary tourniquets out pant belts. Other victims could be seen lying on the blood-splattered pavement. A regional police spokesperson said one of the bombs went off when the tram started to leave the stop. Fortunately there were no people waiting at the stop, but people inside the tram were injured by the exploding windows.
Police said the first explosion took place inside of a garbage can near a movie theater in the city center at about 11:50 am. Another blast rocked the city approximately 40 minutes later and then a third bomb exploded just 15 minutes after that on a busy downtown street. The fourth and last explosion took place at 1:00 pm and police said they all took place in the same area of the city, close to the Dnieper River.
Ukrainian prosecutors quickly launched an investigation fearing the bombings could have been acts of terrorism. However, no information was given regarding possible perpetrators. Police said nobody had claimed responsibility for the attacks and there have been no threats or demands. A similar incident took place in the country in January 2011 and it was linked to an extortion racket. A government official said the country is on high alert while police investigate and residents were told to be on the lookout for any suspicious objects.
While the explosions shook Dnipropetrovsk, security forces were going through anti-terrorist drills at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium, which will host the July 1 Euro 2012 Final. UEFA, Europe’s governing soccer body, said it’s confident that Ukraine will be able to provide top-class security for the event, but Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said this incident has to be treated very seriously.