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Police discovered an explosive device set to blow up in the basement of a 12-story apartment building in western Russia, averting what could have been another in a string of horrific bombings that have terrorized Russia in recent weeks.

Police did not say whether there was a link between the device found Wednesday night in the city of Ryazan and four apartment bomb blasts that killed 300 people in Moscow and two other Russian cities this month.

Authorities in Ryazan were alerted by a resident of the building who claimed to have seen people hauling large sacks from a car whose license plates were covered up, the ITAR-Tass news agency said. The sacks contained sugar mixed with the explosive hexogen -- the material that police say was used in the previous blasts.

Authorities found the explosives, with a timer set to go off at around dawn, and evacuated the building. The device was defused.

The apartment bombings have been blamed on Islamic militants from breakaway Chechnya, who have twice invaded the neighboring region of Dagestan in southern Russia since the beginning of August.

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