Separatists blamed as Donetsk hockey arena burns
MOSCOW (AP) — Pro-Russia separatists looted and burned the main hockey arena in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, said the club that plays there.
The Druzhba Arena— home to Donbass Donetsk, caught fire Monday night causing “considerable material damage,” said the Donetsk-based club, which plays in the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League.
The club revealed that “bandits” supporting the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic had stolen valuables and destroyed surveillance equipment at the arena before setting the fire.
The Druzhba Arena is due to host the second tier competition of the world hockey championships next year. Numerous pole vault world records have also been set there.
The fire came during a night of fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces, which saw intense clashes at Donetsk’s airport.
It was less than two days after pro-European billionaire Petro Poroshenko was elected president of Ukraine.
Donbass’ players and coaching staff will be drafted in to help with repairs at the arena, the club said, adding it was hopeful of reopening by the end of August, in time for the new season.
Pictures of the arena posted online show at least part of the upper level of the building gutted by the fire and debris scattered on the street below.
Donbass is one of the KHL’s strongest non-Russian teams, having reached the Western Conference semifinals last season.
The club is owned by local politician Borys Kolesnichenko, a member of the same party as former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted by pro-European demonstrators in February.
Kolesnichenko is widely seen as an ally of billionaire businessman Rinat Akhmetov, who came out against the separatists earlier this month.