A deadly fire at a military research institute in Tver, northwest of Moscow. Another fire in an ammunition factory in Perm, around 1,100 kilometers to the east. And burns at two tank farms in Bryansk, near Belarus and Ukraine.
Coincidence or a sign that the Ukrainians – or their supporters – are waging a campaign of sabotage within Russia’s borders to punish Moscow for invading their country on February 24?
Since the Tver Military Institute fire that broke out on April 21 and killed at least 17 people, every fire in Russia, especially in sensitive locations, has been taken on social media as a sign that the country is suffering from a secret offensive.
Though no one has claimed them, analysts say at least some of the blazes, particularly those in Bryansk, point to an attempt by Kiev to wage war on its invaders.
Mykhaylo Podolyak, adviser to the Ukrainian president, called the fires “divine intervention” in a message on Telegram.
“Large tank farms burn regularly […] for different reasons,” he wrote. “Karma is cruel. »
“We do not deny”
In a country as vast as Russia, a fire in a distant factory is usually of little concern.
But amid fears of a concerted campaign by Ukrainians, more than a dozen fires have drawn significant social media attention.
Even the flames that last month consumed an air force base north of Vladivostok and a power plant in Sakhalin in the country’s far east have raised suspicions.
And on Wednesday there was an explosion at a factory in Dzerzhinsk, east of Moscow.
“Russian saboteurs against Putin continue their heroic work,” said Igor Sushko, a Ukrainian racing driver who tweet regularly presents photos or videos of acts of sabotage – without providing evidence that the acts are intentional.
Another adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Oleksiy Arestovych, also remained mysterious in an interview with the New York Timesand pointed out that Israel never admits to its secret attacks and assassinations.
“We don’t confirm, we don’t deny,” he said.
part of the strategy?
For some specialists, the Bryansk flames, which affected facilities that transport oil to Europe, were premeditated and war-related.
They come on top of a series of apparent helicopter or drone shots and apparent acts of sabotage against infrastructure in Kursk and Belgorod oblasts near the Ukrainian border.
“Nothing confirms Ukrainian sabotage other than the fact that most of the fires hit strategic or military targets,” said Phillips O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.
Authorities in Belgorod and Kursk blamed saboteurs from Ukraine for the fires and destruction.
According to Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the Belgorod region, an attack was carried out on April 1ah April on a fuel depot was the result of an “air strike by two helicopters of the Ukrainian armed forces, which entered Russian territory at low altitude”.
Such attacks “certainly appear to be part of their strategy,” according to Phillips O’Brien.
Pentagon officials say Russian forces in Ukraine are hampered by weak supply chains and attacks on their infrastructure would further hamper their war effort.
But US officials declined to say whether a campaign of sabotage continues in Russia aimed at targets less directly related to the invasion.