BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — A car carrying containers of flammable materials crashed into the gate of the Russian Embassy in the Romanian capital early Wednesday, bursting into flames and killing the driver, police said.
The sedan rammed into the gate at about 6 a.m. Wednesday but did not enter the Bucharest embassy compound.
Video of the aftermath showed the car engulfed in flames as security personnel ran through the area.
According to police, firefighters who arrived at the scene were able to put the fire out but the driver died on the spot.
The case prosecutor who arrived at the scene told reporters that several containers with flammable substances were discovered inside the car, which will be examined by forensics experts. The crash was under investigation and an autopsy will be carried out, the prosecutor, Bogdan Staicu, said.
In a statement after the incident, the Russian embassy said that no employees were injured and expressed condolences to the family of the driver, but also added: “There is no doubt that he committed this act under the influence of an explosion of anti-Russian hysteria in connection with a staged provocation in the city of Bucha.”
Romania’s foreign ministry, however, hit back in a statement saying it “rejects any attribution of context or political significance to this tragic incident” and called on the Russian embassy to “exercise maximum restraint in offering any interpretations,” before investigations are concluded.
Russia’s ambassador to Romania, Valery Kuzmin, told a Russian state-owned television channel that the embassy in Bucharest has “repeatedly” received threats by email, according to the state news agency Tass. “The atmosphere that has been gradually forming here is very tense,” Kuzmin said.
Since the war started Feb. 24, protesters have gathered outside Russia’s embassy in the capital to call an end to the Russian aggression. Romania’s foreign ministry said in its statement that security at the embassy has been bolstered since then. It also said of the civilian killings in Bucha that the “responsibility belongs to Russia.”
Romania, which shares a long land border with Ukraine, has taken in more than 600,000 refugees since Russia invaded its neighbour.
On Tuesday, Romania ordered 10 diplomats from the embassy expelled following a string of expulsions of Russian officials across the 27-nation European Union.
The foreign ministry said the actions of 10 embassy workers, who have been declared persona non grata, “contravene the provisions of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relationships.”
The embassy incident comes days after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed Romania’s parliament Monday, when he labelled the slaying of civilians in the town of Bucha a “war crime” and called for tougher sanctions against Russia.
Before Zelenskyy’s address, Romania’s President of the Chamber of Deputies, Marcel Ciolacu, said that the “horrible images” that emerged after Russian troops withdrew from Bucha have “overwhelmed and revolted us all.”