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Ukraine observes day of mourning after at least 25 die in coalmine accidents

media Miners rest outside the Sukhodilska-Eastern mine Reuters/Photomig

Ukraine is to observe a day of mourning Sunday after at least 25 coal miners were killed in two separate accidents, President Viktor Yanukovych has announced. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov is to attend a funeral service for victims the same day and meet their relatives.

Rescuers on Saturday recovered the body of an 18th victim after an explosion early Friday at the Sukhodolskaya-Vostochnaya coal mine in the eastern Lugansk region, the emergency ministry said.

Eight miners are still missing.

The toll from a separate accident hours later rose to seven with four missing after a mine headframe collapsed at the Bazhanova pit in the town of Makiyivka in the neighbouring Donetsk region.

The disasters were the country's worst mining accidents since more than 100 miners died in a mine explosion in 2007.

The blast – probably a methane gas explosion - hit the Sukhodolskaya-Vostochnaya mine at around 2 am on Friday, in an air passage at a depth of more than 900 metres, where 28 miners were working at the time, the emergency ministry said.

Two miners are in an “extremely serious condition” in the city's burns unit, regional officials said.

In the separate accident in a state-owned mine in the Donetsk region, a 65-metre-high tower containing the headgear for raising and lowering miners into the shaft collapsed Friday, trapping workers.

"Seven people died, four are hospitalised and the fate of four is unknown," the emergency ministry said in a statement. "The search and rescue operation is

The Sukhodolskaya-Vostochnaya mine is run by a private holding called Metinvest Group, which is controlled by Rinat Akhmetov.

Akhmetov is Ukraine’s richest man and bankrolled Yanukovych's presidential campaign in 2010.

Deadly accidents are frequent in Ukrainian mines, Many of which are underfunded and poorly equipped, while safety violations are rife.

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