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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Ton of Explosives Unearthed at Moskva

Itar-TassPolice inspecting the site of the Moskva hotel after workers uncovered boxes of World War II-era explosives Sunday.
Construction workers in central Moscow faced an unpleasant surprise on Sunday when they uncovered more than 1 ton of explosives under what was once the Moskva Hotel, in what appeared to be either a walled-in storage site or preparations for a last-ditch stand during World War II.

Sappers, police and emergency services were called to where the hotel stood on Okhotny Ryad opposite the State Duma on Sunday afternoon after construction workers discovered dozens of boxes filled with explosives while working in the hotel's foundations, a source at the Emergency Services Ministry said.

The explosives are believed to date from World War II, when Soviet forces sometimes mined strategic sites so they could be blown up if the Germans entered the city.

"It can't be anything else," said the source, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to comment to the press. "The war wasn't that long ago, you know."

City police officials said there was no danger of the explosives going off, as there were no detonators present and the explosives had decayed, Interfax reported.

The lack of detonators could mean that they had uncovered a storage site rather than explosives for blowing up the hotel, the agency said.

As of Sunday evening, 1.16 tons of explosives had been recovered, and officials at the site were not saying whether they were being removed.

Vyacheslav Volokh, a security guard on duty at the site, said he "wasn't scared" and that the workers would be there for "a lot longer."

Workers reported their find at about 1:00 p.m. Three hours later, more than 30 boxes had been uncovered, Itar-Tass reported.

"Preliminary reports indicate that it is TNT that was kept in secret from the time of World War II," an unidentified police official told Interfax.

The explosives were probably placed under the hotel in 1941, two years after the building's completion, when the Germans advanced into central Russia and reached the outskirts of Moscow, Interfax reported. The military strategy had its roots in the Russian Army's setting fire to the city as it retreated ahead of Napoleonic forces in 1812.

The Germans, however, never made it to Moscow and the Moskva remained intact until last year, when the city government ordered the building knocked down. Originally the city intended to blow up the building but the plan, perhaps thankfully after Sunday's discovery, was shelved in favor of taking the building down bit by bit.

Unexploded bombs dating from World War II are not infrequent discoveries in the city. They are usually German ones, however, like the unexploded bomb that was discovered near a Moscow hospital last year, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.