2011 Minsk Metro bombing

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2011 Minsk Metro bombing
Cordon Minsk blast.jpg
Emergency services outside Oktyabrskaya Station
Location Oktyabrskaya metro station, Minsk, Belarus
Coordinates 53°54′6.84″N 27°33′41.04″E / 53.9019000°N 27.5614000°E / 53.9019000; 27.5614000Coordinates: 53°54′6.84″N 27°33′41.04″E / 53.9019000°N 27.5614000°E / 53.9019000; 27.5614000
Date 11 April 2011
17:56 local time (UTC+3)
Target Minsk Metro
Weapons Nail bomb[1] with 5-7 kg TNT equivalent strength[2]
Deaths 15[3]
Victim 204 injured[3][4]
Perpetrators Lone wolves: Dzimitry Kanavalau and Vlad Kavalyou

The 2011 Minsk Metro bombing occurred on 11 April 2011 when at least 15 people were killed and more than two hundred were injured in an explosion on the Minsk Metro, Belarus.[5] The explosion happened at the central Oktyabrskaya station at 17:55 local time.[6]

Initially the cause of the explosion was unclear, but was found to have been a bomb containing nails and ball bearings.[7] President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko asserted that the explosion was aimed at undermining "peace and stability" and hinted at possible foreign involvement but also ordered an emergency investigation of domestic weapon storage facilities.[8] The Prosecution Office launched a criminal investigation and classified the event as a terrorist attack.[9][10][11]

Two suspects arrested on 13 April[12] confessed to the bombing according to Belarus' deputy prosecutor general Andrei Shved. According to him they also pleaded guilty to Vitebsk cafe and Victory day bombings but the motives remain unclear. The investigation, which included law enforcement agencies from Russia, Israel and Interpol confirmed this view. Interpol stated that fingerprint evidence confirmed that the 2008 Victory day bombings and the 2011 Metro were committed by the same person.[13] The trials attracted international political condemnation and the verdicts passed out have been questioned, primarily by the Belarusian opposition and the EU. The bombing came at a time of economic problems and protests against Lukashenko's government. Some believe that the national intelligence agency of Belarus planted the device, rigged a show trial and tortured confessions out of the two suspects.[14] According to the investigation, the bomb was unique and the foreign investigators also expressed great interest in it.[15] In March 2012 both men (Kanavalau and Kavalyou) were executed by shooting.[16]

Background[edit]

The explosion in the Minsk metro led to the country's largest loss of life since 53 people were crushed to death at Nemiga in 1999. Previous bombings in the recent history of Belarus did not result in any fatalities. In September 2005, two bombings occurred in the northeastern city of Vitebsk.[17] The former was blamed on criminal gangs, and the latter, in which 46 people were injured, was blamed on hooliganism.[17]

During the Belarus Independence Day celebrations on 4 July 2008, fifty people were injured when a bomb exploded at a concert in Minsk.[18] Like the bombing at the Vitebsk cafe in 2005, the concert bombing in Minsk was blamed on hooliganism, and President Lukashenko stated that he didn't believe he was the target.[18]

Incident[edit]

A wounded victim being evacuated
An area cordoned off two hours after the bombing
A man injured in the blast
People commemorating the victims in Minsk

The explosion happened at about 18:00[4] during rush hour at Oktyabrskaya station, which provides the sole interchange between the two lines of the Minsk metro. Like nearly every station in Minsk, Oktyabrskaya has an island platform, and during the explosion, trains were located on both tracks.[19] According to the initial investigation, the bomb was located under a bench next to the inbound (Institut Kultury-bound) tracks.[20] The bomb exploded next to the second car of an inbound train.[20] At the moment of the explosion, there were 300 people in the area and an outbound (Uruchye-bound) train passed through the station without stopping.[20] According to witnesses, there was "a flash and a bang" as passengers exited a train which had arrived at the station.[8] The bomb was reported to have been packed with nails and ball-bearings, with an explosive force equivalent to 5 kg of TNT.[7] It was said to be under a bench on the platform and could have been detonated by remote control. Interior Minister Anatoly Kuleshov said the perpetrators sought to "kill as many people as possible."[4]

The explosion caused a hole 80 cm in diameter.[20] It was so powerful that it shook trains at the adjacent stations Pl. Lenina and Pl. Pobedy.[21] The blast was equivalent to five to seven kilograms of TNT.[22] According to Interfax, the bomb was partially composed of fragments of metal.[23] The device was packed with ball bearings, indicating that it was a nail bomb; most of the injuries from the blast were caused by shrapnel.[24] It is believed that the explosive device was radio-controlled and that the bomb was of advanced technical quality.[25]

Victims[edit]

The wounded victims were admitted to five hospitals in Minsk.[20] Among the injured, 22 were in a serious condition,[3][20] one of them died in the hospital.[26] Another 30 suffered injuries of moderate severity.[24]

Citizenship Killed Injured
 Belarus 15 195
 Russia 0 5
 Armenia 0 1
 Turkmenistan 0 1
 Ukraine 0 1
Total 15 203


A national day of mourning was declared for 13 April 2011.[27] Black ribbons were attached to flags, and all entertainment events cancelled.

Infrastructure[edit]

Like all metros built during the Soviet period, the Minsk Metro contains many artistic elements such as stylised lighting and decorative ceilings. In his speech following the explosion, the president suggested that the design of Oktyabrskaya station may have worsened the injuries.[28] "The metro should be decorated in a way so that nothing will fall onto people's heads," Lukashenko said. "Not only from a blast. People also received injuries from objects that fell from the ceiling."[28]

Following the attacks, Interior Ministry began installing metal detectors to all stations.[29]

Investigation[edit]

President Lukashenko ordered a thorough investigation into the explosion.[28] "There should be results every day. Work day and night," Lukashenko told the Belarus security apparatus.[28] He urged Belarusian security officials to get in touch with Russian security to aid in the investigation due to their experience with terrorist attacks in Moscow Metro.[28]

The president said "We have been thrown a serious challenge. It requires an adequate response and it must be found. They will not let us have a peaceful life, I want to know - who". He made an appeal to the Belarusian population to assist in the apprehension of the perpetrators: "I would like to address the people honestly and openly: without you it will be difficult for us to find these monsters. You must help us."[28] He also ordered the full transparency of the investigation and the full availability of information to the citizens.[30]

The Belarusian State Security Committee announced that they would pay anyone who had photos or videos of the attack.[31] The opposition newspaper Nasha Niva provided certain material.[32]

Three residents of Minsk were detained "for spreading provocative rumors, sowing panic". These people were alleged to be spreading false information about the new bombings on Internet forums and social networking sites.[33]

The head of the investigation group, Deputy Prosecutor General of Belarus Andrei Shved, announced that several people were arrested on 12 April and the facial composite of the bomber was released.[34] The head of the Belarusian State Security Committee Vadim Zaitsev said that three versions of the causes of the terrorist attack were being investigated: as a destabilisation attempt, the action of an extremist anarchist organisation and the action of an unhealthy person.[35] Following the arrests, he said that the third version was now considered the correct one, that the attack was an act of an unhealthy person.[15] Through cooperation with international investigators, it was confirmed that the perpetrator of the Metro attack was also linked to the Victory day bombings in 2008.[13]

Three suspects were said to have confessed to their involvement in the bombing after police had arrested local dissidents.[citation needed] The head of the State Security Committee said that one of the men, who was in his mid-20s, was arrested and had confessed to being responsible for the bombing.

Lukashenko declared that they may have knowledge into who "ordered the attack".[36] He also claimed they had admitted their guilt and described the investigation by the police and the Belarusian State Security Committee as a "brilliant operation".[37] He claimed that they admitted they were also guilty for the Vitebsk cafe and Independence Day attacks.[37] He also said their motives remain unclear.[38] It was reported that psychiatrists interviewed the prime suspect and that he said that he "enjoyed the suffering of others" and did not claim any political motives. However, they considered him sane.[39]

International reaction[edit]

Flowers in front of the Embassy of Belarus in Moscow
Supranational bodies
  •  United Nations — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said "I do not know about the exact motives of what happened, but, as reported, it was the result of deliberate action. If so, then this is totally unacceptable and must be condemned. Whatever were the motives behind it, one can never justify the use of violent methods."[40]
    • The Security Council issued a statement calling the incident an "apparent" terrorist attack. A diplomat[who?] from one of the 15 states on the Council said that: "The word 'apparent' is included in this statement for a reason. There are credible indications in Belarus saying there is a more than even chance that the government was behind this."[41] Another diplomat[who?] said: "There was a lot of debate about this statement which is why it came out so late. But it just highlights international suspicions." The final statement read that "The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the apparent terrorist attack that occurred in Minsk, Republic of Belarus, on April 11, 2011, causing numerous deaths and injuries. They expressed their deep sympathy and condolences to the victims of this heinous act and to their families, and to the people and government of the Republic of Belarus."[42]
  •  European UnionHigh Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said "I deeply regret the tragic loss of lives in the blast, which occurred yesterday. I want to express my sincere condolences and support to families of the victims and the people of Belarus".[43] European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek expressed condolences and said "I wish a speedy and full recovery to the injured. The cause of the blast must be fully investigated".[44]
  • OSCE logo.svg Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe — Chairperson-in-Office Audronius Ažubalis expressed condolences.[45]
  • CSTO Flag.png CSTO — Secretary General Nikolay Bordyuzha expressed condolences.[46]
State officials
  •  Armenia — President Serzh Sargsyan expressed condolences and expressed readiness to organise the treatment of victims in hospitals in Yerevan.[47]
  •  Azerbaijan — President Ilham Aliyev stated "I am deeply shocked with the news about the numerous human casualties in the terrorist act in the Minsk metro. We strongly condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. On behalf of the people of Azerbaijan and on my own behalf I express our sincere condolences to you, family and friends of the victims, all the people of Belarus."[48]
  •  China — Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said that China strongly condemns the attack and that "China supports the efforts of the Belarusian leadership to combat terrorism".[49]
  •  Estonia — President Toomas Hendrik Ilves sent a letter of condolence to President Lukashenko which said "I am shocked by the tragic events in the Minsk metro. At this difficult time, our thoughts are with the Belarusian people."[50]
  •  France — A statement from the Foreign Ministry described the incident only as an "explosion."[51]
  •  Georgia — Press secretary of President of Georgia Manana Manjgaladze said that "The president and all Georgian people deeply sympathise with relatives and friends of those killed during the terrorist attack in Minsk".[52]
  •  Israel — Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman expressed his condolences.[53]
  •  Kyrgyzstan — First Deputy Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov said that the "terrorist attack in Belarus will not affect the decision of Kyrgyzstan to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan".[54]
  •  Latvia — President Valdis Zatlers has expressed condolences to the people of Belarus in the wake of an explosion in the Minsk metro, particularly expressing his concern for those who were injured or killed in the event and expressed hope that those who were hurt will soon get better.[55] Foreign Minister Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis offered his condolences to the Foreign Minister of Belarus and to the people of Belarus.[56]
  •  Lithuania — President Dalia Grybauskaitė, Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, Seimas Speaker Irena Degutienė, Foreign Minister Audronius Ažubalis express their condolences by the name of Lithuanian nation and condemned the violence in Belarus.[57] Lithuania also offered to give free treatment in its resorts to all injured people.[58]
  •  Moldova — Acting President Vlad Filat said "This tragedy, I firmly believe, should serve as a further consolidation of the countries in combating terrorism in all its manifestations in the name of peace and tranquility of all people of goodwill".[59]
  •  Poland — Ambassador of Poland to Belarus Leszek Szerepka quoted the Foreign Minister as saying "Let me express my deep sympathy to the families of those killed and to the brotherly people of Belarus".[60]
  •  Russia — President Dmitry Medvedev expressed his condolences[61] He also expressed his hope that law enforcement agencies "will trace down the masterminds of the crime" and that "we will help Belarus." Further adding that "“The Belarusian authorities should take much effort to rehabilitate the general moods after the terrorist act."[62] Prime Minister Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences and said "On behalf of the Russian government and myself, I extend deepest condolences. We know firsthand the meaning of such actions. Our sincere sympathy goes from the heart. We like no other, empathise with the fraternal Belarusian nation in its grief. We hope for a speedy full recovery of all injured people. You can count on any help and assistance from our side, including in the investigation of the incident".[63]
  •  Tajikistan — President Emomalii Rahmon said "We condemn this act of violence and pledge to support all efforts to eradicate terrorism".[66]
  •  Turkmenistan — President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow expressed his condolences.[67]
  •  Ukraine — President Viktor Yanukovych stated "Together with the friendly people of Belarus we share the pain of those who lost loved ones. On behalf of the Ukrainian people and me personally, I express my sincere words of sympathy and support to families of the victims and I wish a speedy recovery to all injured".[68]
  •  United States - The State Department condemned the bombing but notably did not term it terrorism.[51]
  •  Uzbekistan — President Islam Karimov sent his condolences to President of Belarus and said "With deep sorrow we took the news of the inhuman terrorist attack. I express my sincere condolences and ask you to convey our sympathy to relatives and friends of those killed and injured".[69]
  •  Venezuela — President Hugo Chávez expressed his condolences.[70]
  •  Vietnam — President Nguyễn Minh Triết expressed his condolences: "Vietnam is outraged and strongly condemns this terrorist act and is very confident that the culprits will be severely punished by law".[71]

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus received condolences from Foreign Ministers of Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Nicaragua, Poland, Ukraine, Finland, Estonia, Japan on 12 April.[72] The next day condolences came from the Foreign Minister of Germany, Turkey, Iran, Italy, Russia on 13 April.[73] The President's office also received condolences from leaders of Turkey, Slovakia, Cuba.[74]

Political Reaction

Political interests outside of Belarus has questioned the official version of events as well as the investigation and court precedings, repeatedly calling for Belarus to pardon those convicted as well as abolishing the death penalty.[75] According to the EU the investigation was not properly conducted and subsequently the trail not conducted on legal grounds, this point of view has even led the German Parliament to officially question the objectivity of the international investigation, accusing Interpol of willfully aquiescing to the "faulty" evidence provided by Belarusian investigators.[76]

International aid[edit]

Israel, Russia, United Kingdom — The press service of the Belarusian president has reported that Israel, Russia and the United Kingdom have offered to help in the investigation. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also offered all necessary assistance in the investigation of the incident.[61] President Lukashenko responded in saying that the help must not be rejected under any circumstances.[20] Subsequently, the Interior Ministry announced that the explosive specialists from these three countries would arrive in Minsk during the following day.[77] Georgia and Iran also proposed to send all needed aid to Belarus.[72]

On 12 April 2011, a team of three Israel Defense Forces Medical Corps doctors departed for Belarus in order to assist in the efforts following the subway attack. Leading the team is the head of the Medical Corps’ trauma department, Alon Galzberg. The team will begin operations by examining the steps that are needed to be taken, while advising local authorities on trauma and post-trauma procedures. The team was dispatched following a formal request by the Belarusian Government.[78] Israel also sent an expert team of Shin Bet specialists as well as police forensic team and experts in the field of combating terror.[53]

Execution of the convicts[edit]

The time and place of executions of the convicts were kept secret. On 15 March 2012 the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning Belarusian government for implementing the death penalty after execution of the convicts.[79] The Belarusian Foreign Ministry's press service stated, that the resolution indicates serious interference in the internal affairs of the country.[80] On 17 March 2012 Ulad Kavalyou's mother was informed. She received a notification saying that her son's execution had been carried out.[81]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

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