Early on October 9th around 12,000 people were evacuated from around 30 towns in the affected area. Airspace within 20 km of the depot was closed, railroad and road traffic were also put on hold when explosions began in an arms depot in Northern Ukraine.
Emergency services said there was no information on any deaths or injuries in the incident near the town of Ichnya, more than 170 kilometers from Kiev.
The initial reports of explosions in the depot began at 3:30am. Five of the warehouses were still burning in the morning.
“There are no victims, wounded, injured or killed among military personnel, personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the local population,” a Defense Ministry statement said. “As of 7 a.m. (0400 GMT), the intensity of explosions is two to three explosions per second.”
RT cited local’s comments on social media saying that the blasts smashed doors and windows. There are numerous videos and images of the night sky lit up by the explosions.
RT claimed that more than 60 people had gone to local hospitals to seek help, despite authorities claiming that there were no casualties. Emergency services were deployed on the scene.
President Petro Poroshenko’s spokesman posted on Facebook that the President had called a meeting of the heads of security forces and promised to give residents all the necessary help.
Ukraine’s Interfax news agency reported that military prosecutors opened an investigation into possible negligence by officials.
In recent years there have been several fires have happened in ammunition and weapons depots. In 2017, explosions at a weapons depot in the Vynnytsya region, 270 km west of Kiev, forced the authorities to evacuate 24,000 people.
Following the incident, a parliamentary defense committee inspected other depots. They discovered significant shortcomings in how the depot in the Chernihiv region was managed, according to Dmitry Tymchuk, who was on the committee.
A “number of shortcomings, including significant ones, were identified,” he wrote on Facebook. “As a result of this trip, I sent an address to the heads of the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of the Armed Forces, which listed the shortcomings identified with a request to intervene in the situation and solve existing problems.”
In March, smoke was rising above a former technical area of a military arsenal in Balakleya. This is where the depot caught fire in 2017.
There are, as of October 9th, five versions of what the cause of the incident might have been.
- It could be negligence on the side of the officials that are operating the warehouse and poor maintenance led to the fire and following explosions.
- It could be corruption in Ukraine, the explosions are used as a cover for large thefts of weapons and ammunition.
- It could be resistance against the Ukrainian government in some regions. The poor security of these depots allows for the local resistance, if there is such a resistance, to cause a situation of the sort.
- The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense blames Russia, so it could be possible that “highly likely Russian agents” started the fire and the following explosions.
- And finally, Ukrainian 112 TV Channel reported that the depots also contained surface to air missiles and documents related to them. If these are BUK missiles, it is possible that the Ukrainian side sabotaged the facility to burn the evidence, following the Russian briefing that showed that the missile that downed the MH-17 flight was of Ukrainian origin.
Investigations in the incident will possibly provide clarity in the following days and weeks.