Cypriot media reported this week that a fire at the Russian Cultural Center in Nicosia was not the result of a criminal act, but police headquarters on Thursday clarified that while no evidence of arson had been found in their investigation, neither crime nor accident have been ruled out by the department.
Police Sergeant Eleni Constantinou told Knews on Thursday morning that that a report by senior law enforcement investigators on the fire at the Russian cultural center in Nicosia in April was based on scientific findings from a state lab and the Fire Department, confirming earlier statements that the police report had been shared with administrators at the Legal Department.
Knews understands police were leaning towards an accidental fire but the report shared with the Legal Department has not been made public.
Unlike a typical criminal investigation on the island where it is handled by a criminal investigation unit within a district, the Russian cultural center fire probe was carried out by Cyprus Police Headquarters in Nicosia.
Last month Police spokesperson Christos Andreou, who was on leave this week, told Knews that a chemical lab report was needed before a final report could be issued by law enforcement authorities.
On Wednesday the Cyprus News Agency said the police report was shared with the Legal Department in early June, adding that it contained no evidence of a criminal act in connection with the fire
Speculation that a tossed cigarette had set the building on fire by accident was also picked up by the media but Fire Department spokesperson Andreas Kettis said this was “a media deduction from one television channel and one newspaper.”
Kettis went on to clarify that his department was looking only at the site of the fire, adding that the investigation was being conducted in collaboration with other state agencies, while Cyprus Police were also looking at information and evidence away from the site.
On Wednesday the Cyprus News Agency said the police report was shared with the Legal Department in early June, adding that it contained no evidence of a criminal act in connection with the fire.
CNA cited Police Sergeant Marina Christodoulidou who said “no scientific or other evidence that point to the fire having been set maliciously had emerged.”
“The possibility that the fire was accidental cannot be ruled out,” Christodoulidou added.
Police stop short of officially ruling out criminal act
But police stopped short of officially ruling out a criminal act, while no other agencies have made statements about the probe.
Initial reports immediately after the fire suggested witnesses had heard two explosions, while others said gasoline bombs were thrown at the building. The Molotov cocktail theory was later abandoned, after reports emerged that the building was undergoing renovation and flammable material had been kept on site.
Last month Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow was taking note of police statements but also called on Cypriot officials to leave nothing out in their investigation.
Zakharova said Moscow hoped that all possibilities be considered in order to help authorities “rule out those that involve malicious intent.”
“It is our view that the agencies responsible for investigating such socially dangerous incidents should consider every version,” she said.