Prague, 12 June (RFE/RL) --Russia's national security service says a passenger train heading from Chechnya to Moscow was derailed by an explosion today. No one was reported killed but at least 15 people were lightly injured.
The derailment occurred some 150 kilometers south of Moscow. Russian security agencies say the driver of the train heard the explosion in the front of the locomotive and a one-meter crater has been discovered at the
The circumstances of the incident, which occurred shortly after 7 a.m., are still not clear but
Russian officials suspect a terrorist act.
Russian television channels show footage of the derailed cars standing at an angle, emergency cars on the scenes and
helicopters hovering above. None of the cars are overturned.
Interfax news agency says at least 15 people were hurt when six cars left the tracks after an explosive device detonated
on the tracks. A deputy Moscow region governor is quoted as saying that the bomb, which caused the blast, contained the equivalent of 5 kilograms of TNT. Federal Security Service spokesman Diana Shemyakina said there was a crater about a meter wide and half a meter deep at the site, and that authorities had found wires attached to the right rail and a
spot where the person who caused the blast might have been located.
The train originated in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, but it is not clear if Chechen separatists are to be blamed for the
explosion which happened far from the breakaway republic.
RFE/RL correspondent Andrei Babitsky, who has traveled extensively in Chechnya and specializes in the region, says he has no doubts it is an act of sabotage. "As far as I understand it is a diversion," he said. "I have just seen [TV] coverage of the story] and it is clear that it is an act of sabotage. People who were working on the train heard an
explosion before the train left the rails. I think it is an act of sabotage. I have no doubts."
Babitsky however says it is difficult to say who ordered the act: "It is a very strange event because I cannot completely
understand the purpose of derailment of the train carrying civilian passengers. I cannot understand why, let's say [radical Chechen warlord Shamil] Basaev or somebody else would need to order such a diversion. However, on the
other hand such a possibility cannot be rejected."
Babitsky says that if the purpose of the act might be to attract attention to the Chechen problem or to dangers
terrorism poses to civilians, the derailment was a success. He says the incident happened near the Russian capital. It draws attention not only to unending war in Chechnya but also to threats this situation poses to all of Russia.
Interfax news agency reports that Deputy Prosecutor-General Nikolai Savchenko said a criminal case was opened on suspicion of terrorism and attempted murder.