Postal disquiet: spate of mail bombs in Spain, including Ukraine’s embassy

National Police agents are seen at the entrance to the Ukrainian Embassy in Madrid, Spain, 30 November 2022. Photo: EPA/Chema Moya

A total of five mail bombs have been identified in Spain, the first one addressed to Ukraine’s ambassador in Madrid, the second having arrived at a Spanish armaments company, the third one making it to a Spanish Air Force base, the fourth one to a European Union satellite centre, and the fifth to the Spanish Defence Ministry.

BREAKING: Spain’s Defence Ministry receives a mail bomb

Spain’s Defence Ministry confirmed the receipt of a letter bomb at 9 am local time on Thursday, its spokesman said. This is so far the fifth mail bomb that has been identified in Spain since Wednesday.

This is a developing story.

Ever since Wednesday, when two letter bombs were found addressed to the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid and to a weapons manufacturer, Instalaza in Zaragoza, in northeastern Spain, two more explosive devices were intercepted at their destination – Air Force base located in Torrejon de Ardoz outside Madrid and a European Union satellite centre very likely located at the same base.

Ukraine’s ambassador was a target of the first mail bomb

An investigation is underway in Spain trying to find out whether a link exists between two letter bombs delivered to the Ukrainian ambassador in Madrid and to an arms company that manufactures rocket launchers donated to Kyiv, according to Spanish police’s statement on Wednesday.

The first bomb injured an officer at Ukraine's embassy in Madrid. He incurred “a very small wound” on their finger when he opened it in the embassy garden, Mercedes Gonzalez, a Spanish government official, told broadcaster Telemadrid.

Not scanned beforehand, the letter was addressed to Ukraine’s Ambassador Serhii Pohoreltsev, who later told the Ukrainian news site European Pravda that the suspicious package addressed to him had been handed to the embassy's commandant, a Ukrainian staff member.

“The package contained a box, which raised the commandant's suspicions and he decided to take it outside – with no one in the vicinity – and open it,” Ambassador Pohoreltsev was quoted as saying.

After opening the box and hearing a click that followed, he tossed it and then heard the explosion… Despite not holding the box at the time of the explosion, the commandant hurt his hands and received a concussion,” the diplomat elaborated.

Police cordoned off the residential area surrounding the embassy in northwestern Madrid and a bomb disposal unit was dispatched to the scene.

The incident prompted Kyiv to order greater security at all its representative offices abroad.

The second mail reaches a Spanish armaments company

An arms company in Zaragoza, northeastern Spain, received a similar package just hours later, police confirmed.

Rosa Serrano, a government representative in Zaragoza, argued in an interview with the SER station that both envelopes appeared to have the same sender since the same e-mail address was written on the back of both of them. Ms Serrano said the packages hailed from Ukraine, which is what alarmed the arms company and prompted it to call the police.

Instalaza, the arms company in question, manufactures the C90 rocket launcher that Spain donates to Ukraine.

The area around the Zaragoza factory was cordoned off by the police.

Having scanned the 10 x 15 cm envelope sent to Zaragoza, an X-ray showed the explosive charge with a wireline ready to be activated when the envelope was opened, Ms Serrano said.

A contained explosion was carried out in the factory by the police. The incident generated no damage, state media reported.

The third letter bomb arrives in a Spanish Air Force base

A third letter bomb arrived in the Air Force base located in Torrejon de Ardoz outside Madrid where it was found by Spanish security forces, the defence ministry said on Thursday, confirming a report from El Mundo newspaper.

Air Force security officers X-ray scanned the mail and discovered it contained “a mechanism”, the ministry statement said. On Thursday morning, police were still analysing the parcel, which was addressed to the base's satellite centre, Reuters reported.

The fourth mail bomb reaches a EU satellite centre

The Spanish Defence Ministry said Spanish security forces had found a fourth suspected explosive device hidden in an envelope mailed to a European Union satellite centre located at an air force base in Torrejon de Ardoz, outside Madrid.

An X-ray scan of the envelope by air force security officers at the EU centre determined the letter contained “a mechanism,” the ministry said. Police were still analysing the parcel on Thursday morning, Reuters reported.

The satellite centre’s focus is on supporting the EU's common foreign and security policy by gathering information from space intelligence devices, according to its website. These kinds of systems are “the eyes of Europe”, as EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell put it in September.

Ukraine tightens security measures

In the wake of the first incident, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba ordered all of Kyiv's embassies abroad to “urgently” boost security and urged Spain to initiate investigation procedures into the attack, a ministry spokesperson said.

Spain’s public broadcaster TVE was later told by Ambassador Pohoreltsev that he was working as usual at the embassy “with no fear”.

“We have instructions from the ministry in Ukraine that given the situation we have to be prepared for any kind of incident... any kind of Russian activities outside the country,” he said.

Spain's High Court has opened a probe into the attack as a possible case of terrorism, a judicial source said, Reuters reported.

Spanish state-run postal company Correos told Reuters it was cooperating with the investigation.

In what seemed a prelude to the ongoing series of mail bomb deliveries, an explosive device “similar” to the ones received by the Ukrainian embassy, a Spanish weapons manufacturer on Wednesday and the air force base reached Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's office on November 24, the Spanish Interior Ministry said on Thursday. In what the West describes as an unprovoked, imperialist land grab, Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 and has been waging a war against the country under the monicker of a “special military operation” ever since.