Reports: 22 dead in Russia train derailment, sabotage a possible cause

By Steve Gutterman, AP
Friday, November 27, 2009

Reports: 22 dead in Russia train derailment

MOSCOW — A passenger train derailed between Moscow and St. Petersburg late Friday, killing 22 people and injuring dozens of others, according to authorities and Russian news agencies.

The state-run railway company confirmed an unspecified number of deaths and said the derailment could have been the result of sabotage, fueling fears of terrorism.

The three rear cars of the Nevsky Express went off the tracks about two-thirds of the way from Moscow to St. Petersburg, federal investigators said. Russian Railways said that four cars derailed and that there were deaths and injuries, with 50 people taken to hospitals in the area.

Emergency officials said 22 people were killed and 55 injured, state-run Vesti-24 television and the ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agencies reported. State-run RIA Novosti, also citing unidentified emergency officials, put the death toll at 21.

Russian Railways said the cause was not yet determined but one possibility was sabotage, which could mean a bomb or another deliberate action to derail the train and cause casualties. Russian news agencies cited unidentified officials as saying a small crater was found at the site of the wreck, leading to speculation that it could have been caused by explosives.

A bomb blast on the same line in 2007 derailed a passenger train and injured 27 people. Two suspects have been arrested and authorities are searching for a former military officer they believe was behind the blast, but the motive was unclear. An explosion in a bathroom on a Moscow-St. Petersburg train in 1997 killed five people.

The route between Russia’s capital and its No. 2 city is heavily traveled by tourists and business people.

Terrorism has been a major concern in Russia since the devastating wars pitting Chechen rebels against government forces in the 1990s. Violence stemming from those conflicts has repeatedly spread to other parts of Russia in the past decade, including deadly bombings in the Moscow subway and attacks that brought two passenger planes down in 2004.

But Russia has also been plagued by deadly accidents resulting from its deteriorating Soviet-era infrastructure and from negligence.

The derailment occurred near the border between the Novgorod and Tver provinces, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) northwest of Moscow and 150 miles (250 kilometers) southeast of St. Petersburg, authorities said.

Russian news agencies reported that some injured passengers were being taken by train and bus to hospitals in the area and to St. Petersburg for medical attention.

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