What’s behind the bombings in Ukraine?
People try to help a woman injured by one of the blasts in the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk on Friday.
April 27th, 2012
12:27 PM ET

What’s behind the bombings in Ukraine?

By Matthew Rojansky - Special to CNN

Details are scarce, but we know for now that two dozen or more people have been injured in multiple bombing attacks in the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk. The first bomb struck mid-day at a crowded trolleybus stop in the city center, and three more explosions are believed to have occurred in central locations soon afterward. Throughout the afternoon and evening, local residents and security services have been seen rounding up trashcans from public places, for fear they might be used to conceal another bomb.

How can these shocking acts be explained? More information will surely become available as an official investigation gets underway, but for now, there are several very troubling possibilities, each of which at least bears careful consideration by the Ukrainian authorities and the public.

The bombings could simply have been random acts of violence, or the work of criminal gangs. Last year, criminals set off smaller bombs in another eastern Ukrainian city, and threatened much larger explosions if a ransom of 4 million Euros was not paid. Bombings and shootings are relatively common in connection with Ukraine’s criminal underworld and endlessly feuding oligarchs, however it is unlikely that such large and indiscriminate attacks were meant simply to assassinate any particular individual.

The chaos around these bombings might have helped to obscure a targeted killing, but it will also surely attract far greater police attention as a result. The attacks might also have been a message meant for one of Dnepropetrovsk’s leading oligarchs, such as Viktor Pinchuk or Ihor Kolomoysky, but given the scale and indiscriminate nature of the explosions, that too seems unlikely.

It seems more likely—and the Ukrainian authorities, at least, have already concluded—that the bombings were acts of terrorism. Some Ukrainians are already suggesting that homegrown terrorists set off the bombs to disrupt the Euro 2012 Soccer championships, scheduled for June (though no matches are planned in Dnepropetrovsk). Ukraine has not previously been the victim of international terrorism, but Dnepropetrovsk, and Ukraine in general, may simply have appeared to opportunistic attackers as a soft target, with relatively lax security and police who could be easily paid off to ignore the warning signs of a plot.

To radicals from outside Europe, the subtle distinctions between EU members like Spain and the U.K. and former Soviet states like Ukraine may not matter much. In fact, on the eve of the Euro 2012 tournament, Ukraine may have seemed like an ideal high profile European target.

If international terrorists were responsible, they might have picked Ukraine for more specific political reasons. From 2003 to 2008, Ukraine had some 1,600 soldiers in Iraq, and it is one of only two post-Soviet countries contributing troops to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, though Ukraine’s contingent numbers less than two dozen. Ukraine might also have been a victim due to its close association with Russia, a country on Islamic extremists’ list of enemies because of the ongoing Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus and Russia’s staunch support for the al-Assad regime in Syria. Although Ukraine watchers see relations with Moscow as unusually strained right now, Al Qaeda’s thinking on this point may be a bit less precise.

On the other hand, conspiracy theories are popular in Ukraine and some may imagine a more direct Russian role in this tragedy, precisely because of the two countries’ strained relations. Ukraine has refused to join Russia’s customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, and has erected barriers to prevent Russia’s Gazprom from gaining control of Ukraine’s network of transit pipelines. Moreover, although President Yanukovych has taken NATO membership for Ukraine explicitly off the table, he continues to push for EU integration.

Some Russians have argued that the infamous apartment bombings in 1999, on the eve of Putin’s elevation to the presidency, were actually orchestrated by Russian security services to drum up public support for the war in Chechnya. If the authorities were capable of such brutality on Russian soil, why not use the same means to pressure and embarrass Ukraine, which might be forced to scale back the upcoming soccer tournament or turn to Russia for help?

On the theme of cynical political motivations, opposition politicians have already begun to lambast the government for failing to prevent the attack, and even to insinuate the involvement of government figures. For the embattled Yanukovych administration, there may actually be a silver lining to this tragedy, if fear and insecurity drive Ukrainians to back the president’s Party of Regions in parliamentary elections planned for October.

That the attackers targeted a largely Russian-speaking eastern city that has been a Party of Regions stronghold might also stir up fears about western Ukrainian radical nationalism, as in the 2010 bombing of an orthodox church, and the attacks on World War II veterans by radical nationalists last year. At the very least, the bombings have already displaced this month’s previous top story, the failing health of imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, though neither headline is exactly good news for the government.

The tragedy that has struck Ukraine is a reminder that acts of terror are possible anywhere and at any time. When world leaders call to offer condolences and assistance, they should also remind Ukraine that the most powerful response to terrorism is to deny its desired effect. Despite recent setbacks, Ukraine has made progress toward reforms that will safeguard citizens’ personal, economic and political freedom. In the aftermath of this tragedy, Ukraine has an opportunity to show that pursuit of justice, security, and freedom are not mutually exclusive.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Matthew Rojansky.

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Topics: Europe • Terrorism

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soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Victoria

    the author is much more into conspiracy theory that the Ukranians alltogather. It's strange he didn't mention imprisoned Former PM Yulia Timoshenko is from Dnepropetrovsk and her Mother lives there. or that there's weapon production in the city. this info might have led the author to come up with a couple of more theories behind the bombing.

    April 27, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Reply
    • Houston-Dnepr

      Kind of agree with victoria, the only statement that might still make some sense (from the Party of Region's standpoint) is this: "For the embattled Yanukovych administration, there may actually be a silver lining to this tragedy, if fear and insecurity drive Ukrainians to back the president’s Party of Regions in parliamentary elections planned for October." I'd hate to think the current Government have resorted to such measures, but this is the most likely scenario here
      (Mein Kampf: use a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously)

      April 27, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Reply
    • Sean B.

      Excellent points, funny how they don't mention where the author is employed. Poor article.

      April 27, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Reply
    • Alex

      Good point people scared to put 2+2 together first person of interest should be Yulia Tymoshenko and people around her...

      April 28, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Reply
    • LittleWhirlwind

      Looks like Russian intervention 100%

      Why would Ukrainians kill Ukrainians to make a point.

      That's as silly as Assad claiming Syrian rebels had done the terrorists attack while it was really Syrian special forces.

      Now, what's russian interest in creating chaos.

      Obviously chos would provide an excuse for the corrupt leader to call russian for help, and they would be happy to oblige, tranpling all femen members as the tank roll, Tianamen Square style.

      I didn't expect Putin to pull off something like that so early in the game

      April 29, 2012 at 1:51 am | Reply
    • CharlieSeattle

      There are not facts presented past the original story headline. The rest of the article is B#LL S#IT.

      But conspiracy theory articles sell newspapers, soap and pick up trucks.

      If it Bleeds It Leads.

      April 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Reply
  2. IllTake

    I'll take Towel Head Terrorists for $1000 Alex.

    April 27, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Reply
  3. Joseph McCarthy

    Who or what are the Ukrainians hurting these days? If this happened in Russia on the other hand, one would readily understand the resentment that the chechens feel toward the Russians but the Ukranians, unless they joined NATO and God willing they won't, this act is a total mystery to all of us!

    April 27, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Reply
    • ✠ RZ ✠

      One thing for certain, anyone who might still think it's just another idle threat, better think again.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Reply
  4. Zerolow

    Al queda said " Russia, If u become friends with bashar we will blow up another country"

    Cuz that just seems logically doesnt it? =P

    Im sure sumone from that country did it u morons , Because in that country everyone is poor they dont care about their lives when their dying of hunger anyways

    April 27, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Reply
    • EuroCup

      not exactly dying of hunger... being poor in Europe is different from being poor in Africa and have absolutely nothing to eat. Ukraine does have tons of problems but those have to do with how the society functions in the transition period from the Soviets to capitalism but it is definitely not as simple as you put it: people dying of hunger, so nobody cares about their lives... Read a bit more about that country (if you are interested at all).

      April 27, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Reply
    • Anastasia

      Well, you'd bettter not think of Russians in such a way. Although we obviously have lots of problems, hunger is definitely not the thing that they include. And moreover our problems are not so big to make such reckless steps. How could you just say these things!

      May 1, 2012 at 5:15 am | Reply
  5. jah rasta fari

    this is a so obviously done under the orders of yanukovich-excuse to squeeze the balls of Ukraine !
    please dont ever think this guy has any humanity!
    Im starting to see haw brave Yulia is.
    dont give up the fight-you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you cant fool all the people all the time-now youve seen the light ,Stand up for your rights!!!!!

    April 27, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Reply
    • Just observing

      do a little more digging on your *brave* Yulia and you might not like what you find

      April 30, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Reply
    • jah rasta fari

      you are right-nice to know other people see the real picture.peace and love-

      December 19, 2012 at 7:07 am | Reply
  6. magneticink

    Russians just can't resist causing murder and mayhem in the Ukraine: The Great Famine in the 30's; Russian Communism for 70 years; Chernobyl; the Russian Fleet stationed on Ukrainian soil...the list never ends...maybe one day, the former "Soviet Republics" will unite and invade Russia...and we'll see how the Russians like it...

    April 27, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Reply
    • AfisFis

      and maybe one day the governments of the former 'Soviet Republics' will start taking responsobility and become accountable for their own actions, instead of conveniently blaming absolutely all of their problems on Russia. It's been over 20 years, the whole 'Russia done it' scenario isn't going to fly forever.

      April 28, 2012 at 3:15 am | Reply
      • Andrey

        Very true. Ukrainian nationalists indeed look very infantile: can not and do not want to take the responsibility for their own life and their own country – as grown ups do. The years pass by without touching them – since they were 12. At least mentally.

        April 28, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  7. ronnie simmons

    my roomate's step-aunt makes $69 an hour on the laptop. She has been without a job for nine months but last month her pay check was $17127 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on this site NUTTYRICHdotcom

    April 28, 2012 at 3:54 am | Reply
    • ✠ RZ ✠  

      Sure that's not the top of someones' lap ?

      April 30, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Reply
  8. mimi jacques

    The bombs were hidden in concrete trash bins (concrete gives the extra blast-off) in the tram station;bus stop,near school and park. Noone was killed- injuries to 27 people (9 kids). There was a similar bomb blast in the downstown mall-also in a concrete trash bin hidden bomb in November 2011 when 1 person died. They seemed to be linked to the same person. Dnepropetrovisk has 1 million+ residents- 4th largest in Ukraine. Julia (Yulia)Timoshenko was found guilty at her trial and sentenced to 7 yrs imprisonment for abuse of power (Natural gas deal with Russia).Dnepropetrovisk is her hometown- and before the blasts EU (Germany in particular)has demanded her release from prison since she was sentenced for political reasons) Furthermore- EU nations are considering boycotting the EM soccer matches set to take place in Ukraine. No muslim extremists- most probably a very homegrown bomb attack reconstructionist.

    April 28, 2012 at 8:19 am | Reply
    • Sean B.

      Good analysis

      April 28, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Reply
  9. j. von hettlingen

    Dnipropetrovsk is an industrial city and the birthplace of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. She was a leader of the pro-Western Orange Revolution in 2004 und is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of office. Her chief rival, Yanukovych, won the election in 2010 and has forged closer ties with Russia. So, it's strange that he is focussing on an European integration.

    April 28, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Reply
    • Andrey

      Could you please be mo specific on "has forged closer ties with Russia"? What were the the signs? Another confrontation about prices of gas and mysterious "leaks"?
      The article assumptions that these acts of terror could be caused by some international terrorist group mistakenly believed Ukraine being Russian ally are just ridiculous. It only shows now little Western journalism is bothered with facts: only considers it a raw material to mould into its own version of "truth".

      April 28, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Reply
    • GodIIsWatchingYou


      I'll be clear, he's corrupt and a pawn of Putin. Putin visited him with his russian bikers squad. The man stink. period. and he want to sell ukraine to russia if the price is right.

      *international terrorist group mistakenly believed Ukraine being Russian *

      who said that. russia claim they are terrorists so they can use it as an excuse

      they are obviously KGB or Russian Mafia, which is the same thing anyway. The mafia was formed by ex-kgb and suspected of really being a splinter cell still tied to the KGB

      April 29, 2012 at 1:59 am | Reply
    • Andrey

      20 years have passed, and you are still afraid of KGB? He-he
      That must have been quite a scare they gave you!

      April 29, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Reply
  10. bih

    Central banks appear to the the toot of all evil. Nato seems to be right in there with them.

    April 29, 2012 at 1:29 am | Reply
    • J. Foster Dulles

      Thank you, bih. It appears that the right-wing thugs in Washington will stop at nothing to get more countries to join NATO, thus increasing their already tight stranglehold on Europe. To them, it's all big business no matter who gets hurt in the process!

      April 29, 2012 at 10:33 am | Reply
    • Johnathan

      You're not making any sence.
      You're a troll.

      April 29, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Reply
      • ✠ RZ ✠  

        That's because the last time you let go the "toot of all evil" it knocked you "sence" less.

        April 30, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  11. tom hamman

    It is a shame the question was not posed to John Brennan as to the terrorist attack in the Ukraine. Anoughther distraction from reality ochistrated by a liberal government, Can you ignor terrorist attacks while celibrating an anniversary victory?

    April 29, 2012 at 11:28 am | Reply
  12. Tigran from Russia

    "Ukraine might also have been a victim due to its close association with Russia, a country on Islamic extremists’ list of enemies because of the ongoing Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus and Russia’s staunch support for the al-Assad regime in Syria." whille US is against Assad and thus on terrorist side

    May 1, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Reply
  13. ProudAmerican

    You know so many countries are full of brain washed individuals. The world is one giant ball of lies, deception, evil doers, and greedy people. I am glad that even though my country has the same as previously mentioned, we still are the best COUNTRY in the world!

    May 1, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Reply
  14. Benedict

    The problem with the arguement that the bombings are happening because of the imprisoned Tymoshenko is that it gives ammunition to the administration of President Yanukovych to keep her in jail since she is a threat to Ukraine!

    May 2, 2012 at 5:56 am | Reply
  15. Just observing

    you people have no clue. if it was her people that did the bombing its not going to get her out it will keep her in longer(and if you knew the true story you'd tell them throw the key away). if it was the government which I highly doubt because to be honest they aren't that smart, then let the Ukrainians decide to revolt. why don't we wait and see what the investigation turns up before we decide one way or the other who did the bombing.

    May 2, 2012 at 10:17 am | Reply
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    May 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Reply

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