An Azerbaijani newspaper claimed that the collapse of a multi-storey building under construction in Baku on Tuesday, which killed at least 16 and injured eight people, involved "Russian interests."
"The article openly states that Russia is allegedly interested in destabilizing the situation in Azerbaijan in advance of elections," Vasily Istratov said. "I believe that such allegations go beyond the boundaries of journalism ethics, and as ambassador I cannot fail to react to this."
The paper's "so-called investigative journalists" found in the tragic event "a vague dead-end lead which from their point of view led to Russia," he said.
"I am appalled not that this is being attributed to someone, but by the cynicism that is behind it," the diplomat said.
Istratov said the Russian Embassy would consider what steps it could take, and may issue an official note of protest. He also expressed his condolences to families and relatives of those killed in the collapse, and said that the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations was ready to assist Azerbaijan in the relief operation, which is still underway in Baku.
Preliminary investigation reports said the cause of the collapse was probably a breach of safety regulations at the construction site. Police have already arrested the CEO of the construction company, Ali Muradov, and his brother, as well as two construction managers.
A spokesman for the construction company said he heard the sound of an explosion before the building collapsed, but no witnesses have confirmed this.
Other witnesses said they felt a tremor before the building collapsed, but those reports have been dismissed by local officials. Some officials suggested that those responsible for the tragedy deliberately spread rumors of a tremor as a way of avoiding responsibility.