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22 Feb, 2015 11:40

At least 2 killed in blast at 500-strong rally in Kharkov, Ukraine

At least two people have been killed in an explosion in the center of Kharkov, Ukraine, during a peace march, local media report. Around 500 people had gathered in the center of the Kiev-controlled city for a rally.

Those marching in the front were hurt, with Tass reporting from the scene that at least 15 people sustained injuries and 3 others were killed. Other outlets speak of four and eight casualties.

At the moment, Ukraine Interior Ministry confirms two fatalities and 10 casualties.

Interior Ministry head Anton Gerashenko gave the names of the two victims on his Facebook page: local activist Igor Tolmachev and a military officer identified as Lieutenant Colonel Ruybalchenko. He added that the explosive device was planted in a bank of snow along the march route.

#Харьков теракт pic.twitter.com/MSDoSvYyGf

— Petr Terentiev (@xxxpitx) February 22, 2015

The blast went off when the march participants started moving from the Sports Palace to Svobody (Liberty) Square,” a witness told Gromadske TV. “An explosive device was planted around 100 meters from the palace. Two people have died.

Witnesses interviewed by TASS also claimed the explosive device was thrown from a passing car, however, authorities appear to stick to the planted device version.

Kharkov’s prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation into the explosion, describing it as a “terrorist act".

“All victims have shrapnel wounds from a grenade blast. Three are in a serious condition,” said Aleksandr Galatsan, the head of the regional Department of Health.

A police officer is among the casualties, law enforcers told TASS.

Воскресное вече в Харькове. #Харьков #Майданpic.twitter.com/9NRwPwPbWH

— tom joad (@huntingbees) February 22, 2015

An anti-terror operation has been launched in the explosion's aftermath, said Anatoly Turchinov, head of Ukraine’s security and defence council.

Turchinov said, that “four members of the group behind the explosion have been detained, and arms, including a grenade launcher, were confiscated.”

The adviser to the SBU chief, Markian Lubkivsky, said the service was aware of a series of terrorist acts planned for Sunday, RIA Novosti reported.

Security services were able to give advance warning of a terrorist act in Odessa, said President Petro Poroshenko during his meeting with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowsky. The Polish leader was invited to Kiev by Poroshenko to attend the commemoration events to victims of the violence during the Maidan protests.

Earlier in the day, 133 Ukrainian soldiers, freed as part of a prisoner swap with the rebel forces, arrived in Kharkov.

The march in Kharkov was organized in commemoration of the 2014 Maidan events, which brought about regime change in Ukraine.

DETAILS: Witnesses say device thrown from car in attack in #Kharkov, E.Ukraine http://t.co/tLqhuT3Uzu#Kharkivpic.twitter.com/yWwzk1C9HJ

— RT (@RT_com) February 22, 2015

Kharkov, in northeastern Ukraine, is the country's second largest city in terms of population. The Kharkov region is under Kiev control and is close to the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.