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Odessa fire victims died from chloroform vapors -- senior Ukrainian investigator

More than half of people officially recognized killed in the Trade Unions House in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa in early May died from chloroform, a high-ranking Ukrainian police investigator said Monday.

"The garbage and soot seized during examination of the Trade Unions House premises were found to contain such a substance as chloroform. We are currently establishing where it came from," Ukrainian Interior Ministry Main Investigation Department head Vitaly Sakal said.

"Inhaling chloroform vapors - there is a relevant expert conclusion - results in cessation of breathing, which we had. A total of 32 people died not from high temperature (in fire)," Sakal told journalists. He said the mixture that contained chloroform had been in the Trade Unions House "for a few days".

He said that for a repeated expert examination, the Ukrainian side asked the Israeli embassy in Ukraine to provide experts who have the required training.

Ukraine is in turmoil after a coup occurred in the country in February. New people were propelled to power amid riots as security concerns caused President Viktor Yanukovych to leave the country the same month.

Massive protests against the new Ukrainian authorities erupted in Ukraine's Russian-speaking southeastern territories after the secession of the Crimean Peninsula, which declared independence on March 11 and joined Russia on March 18 following a referendum.

The eastern Ukrainian Donetsk and Lugansk regions held referendums on May 11, in which most voters supported independence from Ukraine.

Turmoil in Ukraine has claimed dozens of lives since early May. At least 48 people died and 247 were injured on May 2 in clashes and a fire in Odessa after radicals set ablaze the Trade Unions House, where pro-federalization activists hid, and a tent camp where activists were collecting signatures for a referendum on federalization and for the status of a state language for Russian.

In Mariupol in the Donetsk Region in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian law enforcers opened fire from armored vehicles on participants of a rally held in honor of Victory Day on May 9 who gathered near the building of the local Interior Ministry department and who were trying to prevent its storm. Nine people died and 42 were injured.

Meanwhile, a number of politicians have said the Kiev authorities are deliberately understating the Odessa death toll, which, the politicians say, could reach 116. Regarding Mariupol, deputy Oleh Tsariov said at least 40 people were killed in the city.

[Source: Itar Tass, Kiev, 19May14]

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