Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Huge Explosion Rocks John Bull Pub

A violent explosion rocked the newly opened John Bull pub on Kutuzovsky Prospekt at 3 a.m. Thursday, shattering over 40 sets of windows and hurling marble shrapnel and shards of glass across the street.

No one was injured in the blast, according to the manager, but damage to the exterior of the pub and to surrounding flats was extensive.

The attack 200 meters from the Hotel Ukraine is believed to be the first of its kind against a Western-run bar. Similar attacks against Russian-run enterprises have been linked to mafia protection rackets.

"We don't know yet whether it was an accident or not," said the bar's manager, who identified himself only as Chris, as he watched workmen boarding up the windows. "I can't say when we'll have the place patched up. I've seen worse."

Police, however, seemed to be in no doubt that the device was a deliberately placed bomb.

Scorch marks indicated that the bomb had been placed on a low stone ledge by one of the front windows; a meter-long piece of red marble was facade, and heads blown off geraniums in window boxes 50 meters away. The interior of the bar was shielded from serious damage by the stone frame of the pub's bay window.

"I was woken at about three o'clock by a huge explosion," said one resident, a surgeon who declined to give his name. "I wasn't hurt, but I am still in shock. I've never been to the bar, it's too expensive, but it's not hard to guess that it was the mafia who blew it up."

Glaziers had been working since early morning to replace residents' windows at John Bull's expense. Some flats required 17 new panes, workmen said.

"We have no concrete leads at the moment," said Alexei Minorin, of the city police. "We cannot rule out the mafia but are investigating several versions of what could have happened. It's too early to say which way the investigation will lead."

The John Bull pub is part of a European-wide chain owned by British brewing giants Allied Lyons. The Russian franchise, opened four weeks ago, is owned by a Russian company whose name the manager refused to disclose.The management of at least one other Western bar in the city did not seem overly concerned by the attack.

"Of course you can't insure yourself against this kind of attack," said Rosie O'Grady's manager Alexei Markov. "But we have never had any problems with the mafia or intimidation over the two years we have been open."

When asked what sort of protection -- krysha, or "roof" in Russian slang -- he had at the bar, he jokingly replied, "I don't know anything about the roof; the bar's on the ground floor."

The manager of John Bull, who previously worked as a publican in Leeds, England, refused to say whether he had received any threats or had had any contact with the mafia.

As he turned away a curious customer from the white tapes cordoning off the area, he tried to make light of the situation. "Sorry, we're closed. We had a bit of an accident last night."