Ukrainian military official linked to depot blasts commits suicide
KIEV (AFP) May 14, 2004
A defense ministry official reportedly linked to last week's devastating explosions at one of Ukraine's arms depots has killed himself by leaping 10 stories to his death, officials and media said Friday.

The defense ministry confirmed Olexander Sundakov's suicide but denied that Sundakov, chief of the ministry's logistics department, was "in any way linked" to the disaster that wrecked the depot near the southeastern town of Melitopol, killing five people, the Interfax news agency reported.

The Segodnya daily, however, claimed that Sundakov, who jumped out the window of his 10th-floor apartment late Wednesday, was tasked with destroying the remaining ammunitions in the Melitopol military base.

"According to one version, Sundakov killed himself either not to reveal a secret linked to the explosions or was pressured to commit suicide" to provide a convenient scapegoat in the scandal, the newspaper said.

Prosecutors meanwhile pointed out that it was too early to associate the suicide with the Melitopol debacle, Interfax quoted Olexander Petrunia of the Ukrainian prosecutor general's office as saying.

A series of explosions, which followed a fire at the depot containing about 4,500 tonnes of munitions, killed five and forced some 7,000 locals to evacuate the region late last week.

The prosecutor general, who blamed the incident on security lapses and negligence of soldiers who had reportedly smoked near the munitions store Wednesday detained three military officials suspected of sparking the fire.