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    AUTHORITIES INVESTIGATING ARKHANGELSK BLAST

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    MOSCOW, March 16, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Criminal proceedings have been instituted in connection with an apartment house explosion in Arkhangelsk, a regional center in the Russian Federation's north-west federal district. This was disclosed to RIA Novosti over the phone March 16 by Yury Shperling, deputy Arkhangelsk region prosecutor.

    In his words, criminal proceedings have been instituted in line with the Criminal Code's two articles, i.e. manslaughter and infliction of damage through negligence.

    Investigators attribute the blast's causes to natural gas or a possible terrorist act. The terrorist act theory is being examined on a par with other possible theories, Mr. Shperling noted, adding that this was a standard investigation procedure.

    According to the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, four people were killed, after a blast ripped through the section of a nine-storey apartment house. 17 more were injured; and up to 70 people were apparently buried under the rubble. An Ilyushin Il-76 cargo jet flew over from Moscow to Arkhangelsk, carrying 76 specialists, who will organize search-and-rescue operations, as well as four rescue dogs. First Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Yury Vorobyov also left for Arkhangelsk, intending to supervise search-and-rescue operations there.

    104 workers and 20 units of equipment are now clearing up the rubble.

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