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Explosives seized in northwest Russia could have blown up 5-story apartment block — police

The explosives were attached to the reverse side of the icon frames

MOSCOW, April 2. /TASS/. Explosives hidden in icons and seized by security officers in the Pskov Region in Russia’s northwest could have blown up a five-story apartment block, Department Head of the Interior Ministry’s Regional Forensic Center Dmitry Belotserkovsky said on Tuesday.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) reported earlier on Tuesday that FSB operatives jointly with the Federal Customs Service in the Pskov Region had busted a channel of smuggling explosives and explosive devices hidden in Orthodox icons and church utensils into Russia from Ukraine via European countries.

"Hexogen, a plastic explosive of high explosive power was found in icon clads. This explosive is 50% more powerful than TNT. The weight of the seized explosive is enough to blow up a five-story apartment block," the expert said.

The explosives were attached to the reverse side of the icon frames. FSB operatives found manufactured detonators suitable for sabotage. The seized cargo included explosives quick-assembly kits, a battery, a board with a SIM card slot and a detonator.

As the truck driver explained in a video, he received the cargo at a warehouse in Romania. After inspecting the cargo and seeing nothing suspicious in the church utensils, he carried it to Russia. There were no problems with the cargo at customs houses of European countries along the route, he said.

FSB operatives jointly with customs officers seized the cargo bound for Russia from Ukraine and carried via Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, retrieving 27 improvised ready-to use explosives disguised as icons along with 70 kg of factory-made plastic explosives of enhanced power, 91 electric detonators and rounds for an RPG-7 grenade launcher.

Investigators have opened a criminal probe under part 2, article 226.1 of Russia’s Criminal Code ("Illegal Transportation of Explosives and Explosive Devices across Russian Border by a Group of Individuals under Conspiracy"), which is punishable with up to ten years in prison.