U.S. Embassy Truck Burned as Warning Issued

The torching Friday night of a U.S. Embassy truck parked outside the embassy compound was quickly dubbed an act of hooliganism unconnected with the presidential vote, even as officials warned Americans of provocations during the election period.

The camouflage-painted truck -- a former military vehicle waiting to be repainted for embassy use -- was parked along Konyushkovskaya Ulitsa when the incident occurred. Moscow city fire fighters were at the scene within 15 minutes, sources said.

"The embassy considers this an act of vandalism," said Dick Hoagland, spokesman for the embassy, in a prepared statement. "Sometime between 10:30 and 11 [in the evening], flammable liquid was poured on the vehicle and it was set on fire. Russian authorities are cooperating with the embassy to investigate this incident."

By Sunday, the scorched body of the Chevy truck had already been moved to a secured underground parking lot on embassy grounds, along with several other vehicles that had been parked in the area, a witness said.

Although some of the other cars had flat tires, an embassy source said it was not known if the tires had been slashed.

There has been minor vandalism in recent weeks aimed at the fleet of embassy vehicles parked on the grassy area between the road and the brick wall surrounding the embassy, the embassy source said. No cars were parked there Sunday.

Although Hoagland described the incident as an "isolated act of vandalism," the U.S. Embassy did issue on Friday a press release warning citizens of "provocative" incidents during the elections.

The warning will remain in effect until Aug. 2. The statement cites security concerns among Russian authorities following a recent bomb blast on a metro train June 11 and the June 7 assassination attempt on Valery Shantsev, running for deputy mayor of Moscow on a ticket with incumbent mayor Yury Luzhkov.