A fire department representative in Cyprus says speculation about a possible discarded cigarette being the cause of a fire at the Russian cultural center in Nicosia came directly from media outlets, not officials, who are still investigating the incident.
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Officials said they were still investigating a fire at the Russian Centre of Culture and Science in midtown Nicosia on Wednesday, adding that nothing had been ruled out.
Although public speculation appeared to be tailing off, media outlets on Friday were flooded with reports about a possible discarded cigarette being the cause of the fire.
'The possibility that the fire at the Russian Cultural Center was caused by a tossed cigarette is a media deduction from one television channel and one newspaper'
Fire Department spokesperson Andreas Kettis told the Cyprus News Agency that an official incident report was expected to be ready possibly on Friday while he also clarified that at no time did they make any statements about a cigarette theory.
“The possibility that the fire at the Russian Cultural Center was caused by a tossed cigarette is a media deduction from one television channel and one newspaper,” Kettis said.
The official went on to clarify that the Fire 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.
In the hours following the fire, speculation was rampant with some theorizing it was an accident while others feared a possible terrorist attack.
Knews reported earlier on Friday morning that law enforcement authorities in Nicosia were still conducting an investigation into the fire.
Police spokesperson Christos Andreou previously said they had found no evidence to corroborate reports that a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the building.
“We continue to our investigations while awaiting the findings from the Fire Department,” Andreou said on Friday, adding that there were still statements and other evidence to be collected before a final report can be prepared.
On Friday Andreou also suggested that “at this stage, the facts and all the evidence available to us do not point to criminal activity.”
Kettis also said that based on preliminary findings it did not appear that gasoline bombs were used at the site.
Russian officials praised Cypriot authorities about the way the case was being investigated but did not outright dismiss criminal activity, saying an arson attack had not been ruled out by local authorities.