What's Behind the Bombings in Ukraine?

Source: Getty
On the eve of the 2012 European Football Championship in Poland and Ukraine, a series of bombings in the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk have left dozens injured, but questions remain as to who is responsible for the attacks.
Related Media and Tools

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.

This article originally appeared in CNN.

End of document

About the Russia and Eurasia Program

The Carnegie Russia and Eurasia Program has, since the end of the Cold War, led the field of Eurasian security, including strategic nuclear weapons and nonproliferation, development, economic and social issues, governance, and the rule of law.



Source http://carnegieendowment.org/2012/04/27/what-s-behind-bombings-in-ukraine/aie8

Eurasia Outlook

In Fact



of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.


of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.


charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.


thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.


of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.


trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.


of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.


of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.


of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.


of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.


U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.


of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.


million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.


of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.


of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

Stay in the Know

Enter your email address to receive the latest Carnegie analysis in your inbox!

Personal Information
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20036-2103 Phone: 202 483 7600 Fax: 202 483 1840
Please note...

You are leaving the website for the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy and entering a website for another of Carnegie's global centers.