By Andria Kades and Elias Hazou

Authorities on Thursday said investigations were still ongoing over the fire at the Russian cultural centre in Nicosia a day earlier, although a media report said police had already ruled out foul play.

Citing unattributed sources, state broadcaster CyBC said police ruled out the possibility of a criminal act over Wednesday’s blaze that gutted the building.

The same report said the fire broke out most likely due to a cigarette – probably from one of the workers doing renovation work there.

There was a great deal of flammable material at the site, including blocks of polystyrene, CyBC said.

The media outlet also mentioned Russian claims of a Molotov cocktail being thrown onto the premises, and the alleged spotting of a suspicious ‘white van’ in the area.

But asked about this, fire service spokesman Andreas Kettis told the Cyprus Mail late in the afternoon that the investigation was still open and no determination has been made either way.

He did not confirm the cigarette theory, but didn’t rule it out as a possibility either.

Kettis did say the fire erupted outside the building, and that no fire source was detected inside.

He confirmed the presence of flammable material in the interior as well as the exterior.

The fire service gathered samples from the scene and handed them over to the CID, which is leading the investigation.

“We have done our part, now we wait for the police,” Kettis said.

Earlier, police spokesman Christos Andreou told the Cyprus News Agency there was no indication or witnesses that pointed towards a Molotov bomb.

Nonetheless, officers have cordoned off the area and it is being guarded until Friday, where members of the police force and fire services will carry out investigations to uncover how the raging fire began.

The fire broke out around 1:45pm and was under control shortly after 3pm on Wednesday. Seven fire trucks had gone to the scene to put out the blaze.

Kettis said they would be on the scene to examine the cause of the flames along with police.

“It is a difficult investigation due to the intensity of the fire.”

If any help is required from any other state service, this would be duly requested, Kettis added.

The Russian cultural centre was being renovated and has suffered extensive damage both in its interior and exterior.

Eyewitnesses reported a loud bang ahead of the blaze that engulfed the building, while a Russian official described the incident as a terror attack.

According to Reuters, Russian News Agency TASS reported that Yevgeny Primakov, head of Rossotrudnichestvo, the Russian government’s cultural promotion agency, said foul play was clearly responsible.

“We qualify this as a terrorist attack since it is an attack on a civilian, peaceful building, clearly with the aim of not only causing damage, but also intimidating both our employees and the people who come to this cultural centre,” it cited him as telling the Russia-24 TV channel.