A deadly fire at the Aerospace Research Institute in Tver northwest of Moscow. Another fire at an ammunition factory in Perm more than 1,100 kilometers to the east. And fires at two separate oil depots in Bryansk near Belarus.
Coincidences or a sign that Ukrainians or their supporters are organizing a sabotage campaign inside Russia to punish Moscow for invading their country?
Since the fire at the Central Research Institute of Air Defense Forces in Tver on April 21, which killed at least 17 people, social networks have rushed to every information about a fire somewhere in Russia, especially in a sensitive place, as a sign of that the country is under covert attack.
No one is taking responsibility, but analysts say at least some of the incidents, especially in Bryansk, point to possible efforts by Kyiv to bring the war to its invaders.
In a statement to the Telegram, senior adviser to President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky Mikhail Podalak called the fires “divine intervention.”
“Large fuel depots burn periodically … for various reasons,” he wrote. “Karma is a tough thing.”
“We do not deny”
In a massive country like Russia, a fire at a remote factory or building usually does not cause much upswing.
But after Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24, more than a dozen fires marked by people documenting the war attracted much attention on social media, amid fears that Ukrainians were waging a concerted campaign of burning terror.
Even fires late last month in Russia’s Far East – at an air base north of Vladivostok and at a coal plant on Sakhalin – have aroused suspicion.
A strong fire broke out at a chemical plant in Dzerzhinsk, east of Moscow, on Wednesday.
“Russian saboteurs against Putin continue their heroic work,” said Igor Sushko, a Ukrainian car racer who regularly posts photos and videos of alleged sabotage inside Russia on Twitter, but offers no evidence that they were intentional.
Alexei Arestovich, another adviser to Zelensky, was no less opaque The New York Timesnoting that Israel never acknowledges its covert attacks and killings.
“We do not confirm or deny,” he said.
Part of a strategy?
Military analysts believe that the infernal in Bryansk, which crashed into facilities that send oil to Europe, was intentional and related to the war.
Anonymous analysts on the Twitter account Ukraine Weapons Tracker, which publishes detailed accounts confirming videos of attacks by both sides, said they had received “reliable” information that the fires in Bryansk were the result of attacks by Ukrainian Bayraktar drones.
“If true, this story again shows the ability of Ukrainian troops to strike on Russian territory using long-range means,” they wrote.
“I think it was probably a Ukrainian attack, but we can’t be sure,” said Rob Lee, another military analyst. The Guardian.
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To this are added a number of clear shellings from helicopters and drones, as well as clear sabotage operations against infrastructure in the Kursk and Belgorod regions on the border with Ukraine, close to the fighting.
The governors of Belgorod and Kursk have blamed fires and destroyed infrastructure such as railway bridges, saboteurs and attackers from Ukraine.
The April 1 attack on the Belarusian fuel base, Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov told in his Telegram channel, was the result of “an air strike by two helicopters of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which entered the territory of Russia at low altitude.”
“Nothing would confirm the Ukrainian sabotage, except for the fact that many of the fires seemed to hit strategic / military targets,” said Phillips O’Brien, a professor of strategic research at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
“Such attacks are, of course, part of their strategy,” he said.
Pentagon officials say Russian forces inside Ukraine are being held back by weak supply chains, and attacks on their infrastructure will further affect their military efforts.
But US officials have not commented on whether there is an active sabotage campaign in Russia for purposes that are not directly related to the invasion.