Ukraine, which co-hosts the European Soccer Championships in six weeks, blamed terrorists for four explosions in the city of Dnipropetrovsk that injured at least 29 people today.
The blasts occurred in a 72-minute period beginning just before midday local time, with at least 10 children among the injured, the Interior and Emergency Ministries said. A probe into a “terrorist act” was opened, the Prosecutor General’s Office said on its website. President Viktor Yanukovych called the incident “yet another challenge for the whole country.”
Political tensions have risen as Ukraine gears up for parliamentary elections in October, with supporters of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko rallying today in the capital, Kiev, for her release. The former Soviet state joins Poland in hosting the European soccer tournament, which kicks off June 8 in Warsaw. Three matches will be played in Donetsk, 250 kilometers (156 miles) from Dnipropetrovsk.
The blasts are a “worrying development,” Timothy Ash, a strategist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in London, wrote in an e-mail today. “The political situation more generally has taken a significant turn for the worse in recent months with key opposition figures jailed.”
Yields on Ukrainian government bonds due 2013 rose to 8.573 percent from 8.570 percent at yesterday’s close, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
The Union of European Football Associations said in a statement on its website that it retains “confidence in the security measures that have been developed by the authorities in view of UEFA Euro 2012, and which will ensure a smooth and festive tournament.”
Poland’s government is “closely” watching the situation, Prime Minister Donald Tusk told a news conference in Warsaw, adding that he’ll discuss the events with Interior Minister Jacek Cichocki later today.
The European Union will maintain close contact with the Ukrainian authorities and will seek to obtain “updated information on the cause of the explosions, the status of the victims, and any means by which assistance can be provided to Ukraine,” Catherine Ashton, the bloc’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said in a statement.
Tram Station, Cinema
The first blast occurred at 11:50 a.m. at a tram station, hurting five people, and was followed 40 minutes later by another in a garbage can near a cinema that wounded three more, the Interior Ministry said on its website.
A third explosion, near a park entrance, injured two people, it said. A fourth occurred in the city centre at 1:02 p.m., according to the Emergency Ministry.
Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchneko and other officials are traveling to Dnipropetrovsk, which is located 480 kilometers southeast of Kiev.
The blasts aren’t the first the city of 1 million people has experienced. A bomb exploded in a garbage can in the center in November, killing a businessman. Today’s attacks may be connected, Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka said in televised remarks on Channel 5.
Demonstrators marched through central Kiev today, protesting in front of the government’s offices, parliament and the presidential administration building and demanding freedom for Tymoshenko, a former prime minister who was sentenced to seven years in prison in October for abuse of office.
‘Give Yulia Freedom’
About 2,000 people attended, blocking traffic, shouting “give Yulia freedom,” and “authorities, go away,” the Unian news service reported.
Opposition parties have been physically blocking Ukraine’s parliament for four days after Tymoshenko, 51, started a hunger strike on April 20, claiming mistreatment and abuse during her incarceration and accusing Yanukovych of political persecution. They allowed access today so lawmakers can discuss the blasts.
The German government said it’s “very concerned” about the reports, with Chancellor Angela Merkel undecided as whether she’ll attend June’s soccer tournament. The U.S, Russia and the European Union have condemned Tymoshenko’s imprisonment.
Three members of her Cabinet have been jailed. The latest, Valery Ivashchenko, a former acting Defense Minister, was handed a five-year sentence this month for overstepping his authority while in office.
To contact the reporters on this story: Daryna Krasnolutska in Kiev at firstname.lastname@example.org Kateryna Choursina in Kiev at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at firstname.lastname@example.org