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Smoking Soldiers Ignited Ukraine Ammo Disaster

11 May 2004 -- Ukraine's emergency situations minister today said two smoking soldiers set off the ammunition explosions that killed five people in southern Ukraine last week.

On 6 May, a series of explosions were set off when a fire broke out at a warehouse complex where some 92,000 tons of artillery ammunition was stored.

Speaking today in parliament, Ukrainian Emergency Situations Minister Hryhoriy Reva said two servicemen who were stocking military ammunition began smoking at their working site. He said that caused the fire and set off the explosions.

Ukrainian officials have estimated the resulting damage at around $725 million.

Authorities evacuated around 7,000 people from the area. Most of the evacuees began returning to their homes yesterday.