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    MOSCOW, February 6, 2004. (RIA Novosti) -- An explosion ripped through a subway train at 8.45 here today, killing about 30 people and injuring 30 more. This was disclosed by Deputy Interior Minister Aleksander Chekalin.

    The explosion took place at 8.45 a.m. Moscow time, that is, during the morning rush hour, while the train was moving along the Zamoskvoretskaya line between the Paveletskaya and Avtozavodskaya stations in south Moscow. According to Chekalin, the blast occurred near the first door of the train's second car and 300 meters from Avtozavodskaya station (that is, inside the tunnel).

    A major fifth-category fire broke out immediately after the blast. Talking to RIA Novosti, officials at the municipal civil-defense and emergency-situations department noted that the fire had already been extinguished.

    Rescue workers have already reached the damaged train; ten search-and-rescue squads are currently staying at the scene, the department's officials added.

    Injured people, as well as those with fractures and burns, are being treated at city hospitals, as well as the Sklifosovsky emergency hospital.

    Those hurt in the blast were evacuated from the Paveletskaya and Avtozavodskaya stations. 500 people have already been evacuated. The authorities also evacuated passengers from the Paveletsky railroad station in connection with the blast.

    Talking to RIA Novosti, Sergei Ignatchenko, chief of the Federal Security Service's public-relations center, noted that a terrorist act seemed possible.

    In his words, investigators are working at the scene; moreover, a command center for investigating the blast's causes has been established. The center is headed by Aleksander Chekalin.

    Talking to RIA Novosti, presidential press-service people noted that Vladimir Putin was being informed by law-enforcement agencies about the pace of subway rescue operations all the time.

    Previously, the Kremlin press service reported that the Russian President was promptly informed about the explosion.

    Moscow city prosecutor Anatoly Zuyev, his deputies, as well as an administrative-investigation squad from Zuyev's office, are now working at the scene.

    Criminal proceedings might be instituted, after the authorities learn more about the blast and its causes, RIA Novosti learned at the press center of the municipal prosecutor's office.

    Metropolitan police are tightening security at local subway stations in connection with the latest blast. Additional police details are being posted at subway stations, law-enforcement officers told RIA Novosti.

    Victor Ozerov, chairman of the Federation Council's security-and-defense committee, doesn't doubt the fact that the subway blast was caused by a premeditated terrorist act.

    Everything points to a terrorist act, Ozerov told RIA Novosti.

    According to Ozerov, this large-scale explosion could not have been caused by any large-scale subway-network malfunctions. Subway trains don't run on gasoline; consequently, even a short-circuit could not have resulted in such a blast and fire, Ozerov added. Therefore one can only talk about a terrorist act, he said.

    Ravil Gainutdin, chairman of the council of Russia's muftis, is outraged over this terrorist act, expressing his condolences to the families of those, who were killed and injured in the blast.

    Talking to RIA Novosti, the Mufti expressed condolences to the families of those killed and hurt in the blast on behalf of the board of Russia's muftis, also beseeching Allah that the wounded persons recover as soon as possible. A terrorist has no nationality or religious affiliation, the Mufti noted.

    Moscow faces serious transport problems as a result of this blast. The streets above the Zamoskvoretskaya line's south sector are in chaos.

    Public transport is filled to capacity, with hundreds of people trying to catch a ride. Colossal traffic jams have formed on city roads.

    Police officers are trying to cope with substantial traffic jams and to clear the lanes for public transport, ambulances and rescue teams.

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