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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

2 Suspects Detained in Deadly Ukhta Blaze

Two suspects have been detained on suspicion of torching a shopping center in the northern city of Ukhta this week, killing 24 people, Deputy General Prosecutor Ivan Kondratiyev said Wednesday.

Kondratiyev said the detainees were "adult residents of Ukhta and ethnic Slavs" but did not belong to any extremist groups, Interfax reported.

Several media reports suggested that the attack might have been racially motivated because the shopping center is owned by an ethnic Armenian.

Kondratiyev said investigators had strong evidence against the detainees, but did not elaborate.

The blaze broke out Monday after young men ran into the complex, threw bottles containing a burning substance onto the floor and fled, a senior prosecutor, Ivan Kondrat, said Tuesday, citing witnesses.

Vladimir Torlopov, the leader of the Komi republic, where Ukhta is located, flatly ruled out the idea that the attack was racially motivated Wednesday.

Ukhta prosecutors said the blaze appeared to be the result of a business dispute, Interfax reported.

Local prosecutors on Wednesday opened a criminal investigation into whether negligence had led to an unnecessarily high death toll. The investigation is examining whether fire officials turned a blind eye to violations of fire safety regulations in the shopping center.