By Mark Dovich
The Russian Embassy in Armenia has lodged a complaint with the Armenian Foreign Ministry, rejecting rumors of Russian involvement in the large explosion that ripped through Yerevan’s Surmalu shopping strip on Sunday, leaving at least 16 people dead and scores more wounded.
The embassy said in a Facebook post Wednesday it was “outraged by the cynical sensationalism circulated in the local information space containing blasphemous and false accusations against Russian entities for involvement” in the blast.
The statement continued: “We consider this a direct provocation by the political forces behind such insinuations, aimed at undermining Russian-Armenian allied relations. We expect steps from Armenia’s authorities to stop such unfriendly displays, including making the necessary public comments.”
The Armenian Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment from CivilNet Wednesday afternoon.
Allegations that Russia was somehow involved in the Surmalu explosion, which took place in a warehouse storing fireworks, have spread on Armenian social media sites this week. Armenian officials have ruled out terrorism as a cause of the blast, but it remains unclear what caused the fireworks to detonate.
In its Facebook post, the Russian embassy linked to a previous statement noting that the Russian-Armenian Humanitarian Response Center provided “rescue equipment and machinery” to crews and volunteers working at Surmalu “from the first minutes” after the blast.
Armenia has opened a criminal investigation into the explosion, but as of Wednesday, no one has been criminally charged in connection with the blast. Surmalu’s management has rejected accusations it failed to address fire safety violations found during an inspection last year.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan declared national days of mourning on Wednesday and Thursday, but has not commented publicly on the tragedy.