A deadly fire at a military research institute in Tver, northwest of Moscow. Another fire at an ammunition factory in Perm, some 1,100 kilometers to the east. And blazes in two fuel depots in Bryansk, near Belarus and Ukraine.
Coincidence, or a sign that the Ukrainians – or their supporters – are carrying out a campaign of sabotage inside Russian borders, to punish Moscow for having invaded their country on February 24?
Since the fire at the Tver military institute, which started on April 21 and killed at least 17 people, each fire in Russia, especially in sensitive places, is seen on social networks as a sign that the country is suffering a clandestine offensive.
While no one has claimed them, analysts say at least some of the blazes, notably those in Bryansk, point to an effort by kyiv to wage war on its invaders.
Mykhaylo Podolyak, Ukrainian presidential adviser, called the fires “divine intervention” in a message on Telegram.
“Large fuel depots regularly burn… for various reasons,” he wrote. “Karma is cruel.”
– “We do not deny” –
In a country as huge as Russia, a fire in a distant factory is usually of little interest.
But, amid fears of a concerted campaign by Ukrainians, more than a dozen blazes have drawn huge attention on social media.
Even the flames that last month consumed an air base north of Vladivostok and a power station in Sakhalin, in the far east of the country, aroused suspicion.
And, on Wednesday, an explosion occurred in a factory in Dzerzhinsk, east of Moscow.
“The Russian saboteurs against Putin continue their heroic work,” said Igor Sushko, a Ukrainian racing driver who regularly tweets photos or videos of acts presented as sabotage – without providing proof that they are actions. deliberate.
Another adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, Oleksiy Arestovych, remained equally mysterious in an interview with the New York Times, stressing 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 blazes in Bryansk, affecting installations that send oil to Europe, were deliberate and linked to the war.
They add to a number of apparent shootings from helicopters or drones and obvious acts of sabotage against infrastructure in the Kursk and Belgorod oblasts, near the Ukrainian border.
“Nothing to confirm 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 the fires and destruction on saboteurs from Ukraine.
According to Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the Belgorod region, an April 1 attack 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 seem 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 impact their war effort.
But US officials would not say whether further in Russia there is a sabotage campaign aimed at targets less directly linked to the invasion.