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Blast wounds four at Russian military academy

A blast caused by an explosive device wounded four people on Tuesday at a military academy in Russia’s northwestern city of Saint Petersburg, investigators said.

The Investigative Committee that probes major crimes said in a statement that “four servicemen received various injuries” but their injuries were not life-threatening.

The unidentified explosive device went off around 1:30 pm (1030 GMT), in “staff premises of an administrative building at the Mozhaisky academy,” the defence ministry said in a statement cited by agencies.

It described the device as lacking casing, meaning that it was not a military device such as a mortar shell.

The Investigative Committee opened a criminal probe into attempted murder over the incident, saying it was working to establish “the origin of the detonated object”.

“Everyone is alive,” Saint Petersburg’s acting governor Alexander Belov told the media.

“Three people are injured (and in addition) one is lightly injured,” Belov said.

One was “successfully” operated on, the defence ministry said.

– ‘In bag under stairs’ –

Kommersant daily reported, citing its sources, that the blast went off as military personnel working at the academy attempted to neutralise the device, which cadets discovered hidden in a bag under a staircase. The blast was so powerful that the staircase collapsed.

All those injured are military personnel on the staff at the academy, one of them a woman, the daily reported. Their names have not been officially released.

The most seriously injured person is a teacher at the academy who was decorated for his work as a sapper in Chechnya, Kommersant reported.

On Tuesday afternoon, police sealed off the area around the academy and cadets and staff were leaving the grounds.

Local independent news site Fontanka reported that mine clearing specialists were also at the scene.

A cadet who gave her name only as Natalya told AFP that “everyone is being evacuated.”

She added that “it looked like something exploded on the first floor” but said she did not have any more information.

There was no visible damage to the building’s facade.

The academy, one of Russia’s largest with more than 2,000 students, is overseen by the defence ministry and trains officers to serve in air and space defence and other branches of the armed forces. It has accepted women since 2008.

It is located in the centre of Saint Petersburg, the former imperial capital of Russia whose palaces are a major draw for tourists.

In April 2017, a bomb went off on a train in the city’s metro, killing 15 people and injuring almost 70 more. The alleged perpetrator also died in the attack.

The blast on Tuesday came as 11 defendants went on trial in the city at a military court charged with helping to organise the 2017 suicide bombing that was claimed by a little-known group linked to al-Qaeda.