MOSCOW, October 10 (Itar-Tass) — The State Duma lower house of the Russian parliament demanded explanations from the Defense Ministry in connection with explosions of retired ammunition at the Donguz firing range in the Orenburg region. First deputy chairman of the house committee for industry Vladimir Gutenev forwarded the injury to Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov.
The inquiry followed the accident in the Orenburg region on October 9, when retired ammunition slated for destruction, exploded at the Donguz range.
"The situation causes legitimate concern of the public, as is shown by statements from public organizations and defense sector companies, which keep raising the issue of changing the existing recycling procedure," the inquiry said.
At present, obsolete ammunition is recycled by the Defense Ministry, mostly by means of blasting it at firing ranges. The process often causes harm to people's life and health, and results in fatalities and massive harm to environment.
Aside from that it loses Russia considerable funds from the sale of non-ferrous and ferrous metals, gunpowder and explosives which might be extracted in industrial recycling, according to the lawmakers.
In this connection, Gutenev asked to inform the State Duma about the measures the Defense Ministry is taking to prevent such emergencies and also answer "why these measures have been ineffective in the latest case."
"I ask you to express your opinion regarding the expediency of the transfer from recycling ammunition by blasts to the use of advance industrial recycling technologies at defense sector companies whose capacities are not fully loaded," the parliamentarian said.
The Federation Council upper house of the Russian parliament sent the inquiry to Serdyukov, too. "The continuing series of contingencies related to the recycling of ammunition by blasts in open terrain, results in human fatalities, causes damage to infrastructure, harms environment and provokes protests of the population," the FC members said.
In this connection, they called for urgent measures towards ensuing a safe recycling of ammunition, missiles and explosives. They asked the minister to inform the upper chamber in written form about the measures that have been taken to resolve the above issue.
Reports from the Donguz range said the situation is normalizing. A crisis headquarters has been set up. Firefighters are extinguishing the blaze on an area of 15 to 20 hectares of dry grass. Sixteen units of equipment and 89 personnel are involved in the firefighting efforts.
There were no fatalities among the population of the neighboring settlements.
Meanwhile, the Orenburg region governor Yuri Berg said the recycling of retired ammunition at the Donguz range would not resume.
"The recycling battalion deployed at the Donguz range will be dissolved in the near future. Its soldiers, sergeants and officers will be assigned to other military units of the Central Ministry District, while the transport with the ammunition slated for elimination will be sent to other firing ranges, the press service of the regional governor said.
"The main thing is that there are no fatalities," the governor underlined. "Commander of the rigging company Senior Lieutenant Alexei Titov has been lightly wounded. The officer issued all the necessary instructions, arrange the withdrawal of the personnel, and suffered concussion as he was retreating in the last ranks. He found a place to hide in the area where the ammunition had been unloaded. Six hours later he was found by engineers who rushed him to the Pirogov hospital in Orenburg.
"He is in satisfactory condition and has been transferred to the garrison hospital," the governor said.
A group investigators is looking into the cause of the accident. Under one of the versions, careless handling of fire started the explosions.
The inspection of damaged houses and other structures in nearby settlements did not find significant damage. Some windows have been smashed and small cracks in structures have appeared. Slavyanka firm specialists began repairs of damaged house in the settlements on Wednesday.