Exploding shells rock Russian military test site

Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) — A series of explosions rocked a Russian military test site on Tuesday, releasing giant clouds of smoke over the city of Orenburg near the Kazakhstan border and causing aftershocks.

Police closed the roads leading into Orenburg, halted trains and evacuated thousands of residents from three villages near the test site.

Yuri Berg, the governor of the surrounding region, wrote on his blog that the three explosions were caused by unplanned shell detonations. He said emergency services saw no potential harm to local residents.

Orenburg city officials said that the shells exploded inside a supply depot. Though no victims have been reported, Orenburg emergency services dispatched 14 ambulances to the Donguz test site and prepared facilities for the evacuated villagers and any potential victims.

Military officials have launched a criminal investigation into the suspected mishandling of weapons, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Russian military equipment, which frequently dates back to the Soviet era, has exploded unexpectedly several times at test sites in recent years. President Vladimir Putin has pledged to overhaul and modernize the country's stagnant defense industry.