msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 8/23/2011 3:09:47 PM ET 2011-08-23T19:09:47

An explosion of old ammunition at a military base in southern Russia killed six soldiers and wounded 12 on Tuesday in the latest in a string of such accidents.

The blast occurred as the soldiers were disposing of old munitions on the Ashuluk base in the Astrakhan region, Emergencies Ministry spokesman Oleg Ivanov said.

The cause was being investigated by Russia's Military Prosecutor's Office. Officials said the ammunition may have been mishandled, RIA Novosti reported.

The Ashuluk base is used as an arms testing ground, reported the RIA Novosti news agency. Many of the injured are listed as in grave condition, according to the regional emergency services directorate.

In April, a 76-millimeter artillery shell exploded at the same base, killing one serviceman, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Also in April, an explosion of a 40-kilogram (88-pound) box of gunpowder at a military base near the city of Lipetsk, located south of Moscow, killed four people, RIA Novosti said.

This summer also saw two major fires at ammunition depots elsewhere in Russia that caused extensive damage and numerous injuries.

In the central region of Udmurtia, the fire burned for nearly two days. About 28,000 people were evacuated from their homes and around 50 were hospitalized.

No fire was reported after Tuesday's explosion.

msnbc.com also contributed to this report from the Associated Press.

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