It’s been an eventful 24 hours on Russian territory – another huge blaze erupted, this time on the Russian mainland, just across the Kerch Strait, which was visible from occupied Crimea. As if that weren’t enough, another Russian train was derailed by what has been described as an explosive device.
What’s the latest in the Crimea neighborhood?
A fuel depot caught fire overnight in the Russian village of Volna, located close to the Kerch bridge connecting the Russian mainland to the Crimean Peninsula – the very bridge that was severely damaged by a truck bomb on Oct. 8, 2022.
According to the local governor, the fire has been assigned the “highest level of severity.”
Krasnodar Krai governor Veniamin Kondratyev, added: “A tank with petroleum products caught fire in Volna village of Temryuksky district.
“According to preliminary information, there are no dead or injured,” he said, adding there was no threat to residents.
“Everything possible is being done so that the fire does not spread further.”
In the Russian village of Volna, Krasnodar, an oil depot is on fire. Across from Ukrainian Crimea— Olga Lautman 🇺🇦 (@OlgaNYC1211) May 3, 2023
What was the cause of the blaze?
Right now, an official cause has not been given, but Russia and Crimea have been the target of a series of attacks in recent days ahead of an expected counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces.
Kyiv, however, has not claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Do these pictures from Crimea look similar?
Indeed – just this last weekend a massive fire broke out at a fuel depot in Sevastopol in Russian-occupied Crimea, caused by what authorities have said was a “drone strike.”
📹 A large fire broke out early this morning after several explosions at an oil depot in Kozacha Bay, in temporarily occupied #Sevastopol, #Crimea. Russian media claim there was a #UAV attack.— KyivPost (@KyivPost) April 29, 2023
About 1,000 m² is on fire. There were no casualties. pic.twitter.com/th2SQvjotA
Again, Kyiv did not claim responsibility for the attack, but Crimea, illegally annexed by Russia in 2014, has regularly been the site of explosions over the last year. Sevastopol is home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
Up until around August of last year Crimea was still a popular holiday destination for Russian tourists, but sites like the one in the tweet above have somewhat dampened the holiday mood on the peninsula.
And what about this derailed train?
An explosive device derailed a Russian freight train in a region bordering Ukraine for a second straight day on Tuesday evening.
As well as the fires in Crimea, the last four days have seen two trains derailed by explosions, as well as power lines blown up near Saint Petersburg.
Alexander Bogomaz, the governor of Russia’s western Bryansk region, said Tuesday the train was derailed by an “unidentified explosive device.”
He said it went off at Snezhetskaya station, outside the regional hub of Bryansk, a city of around 370,000 people near the Ukraine and Belarus borders.
“A locomotive and several wagons of the train derailed,” he said, adding that there were no casualties.
What happened in the previous incident?
A Russian freight train derailed Monday in the western region of Bryansk bordering Ukraine after an “explosive device” detonated on the rail tracks, the local governor said.
“An unidentified explosive device went off, as a result of which a locomotive of a freight train derailed,” Bryansk governor Alexander Bogomaz said on Telegram. There were no casualties, he added.
Bogomaz said the device went off “on the 136th kilometer” of the railroad between regional hub Bryansk and the town of Unecha, toward the border with Ukraine.
Can we read anything into the uptick in such attacks?
Although Kyiv has remained silent and not claimed responsibility for any of the attacks, strikes on freight trains and fuel depots are likely part of an attempt to diminish Russia’s ability to fight back against Ukraine’s expected counteroffensive.
The strikes also come as Russia gears up to celebrate May 9, a holiday marking the Soviet victory over the Nazis that has become a central event during President Vladimir Putin’s rule.
Throughout its more than year-long offensive, the Kremlin has sought to portray Russia as safe while its troops fight in Ukraine.
Earlier on Tuesday it acknowledged a security threat. “Of course, we are aware that the Kyiv regime, which is behind a number of such attacks – terrorist attacks – plans to continue this line,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “All our intelligence services are doing everything necessary to ensure security.”
Are Russians nervous?
Apparently so – a recent survey called the National Anxiety Index study by KROS and published by the Russian news outlet Kommersant, said the greatest fear experienced by Russians, in the first quarter of 2023, was due to acts of sabotage on their own territory.
Have the Russian authroities responded?
Russia's FSB security service on Wednesday said it had arrested members of a Ukrainian sabotage network planning a series of attacks in Russian-occupied Crimea, including assassinations.
"The FSB has broken up the activities of an agent network of Ukrainian military intelligence planning to carry out major sabotage and terrorist attacks in Crimea," the security service said in a statement.
The FSB said they had detained seven people and seized explosive devices and detonators. It said the bomb components had been smuggled into Russia from Bulgaria via Turkey and Georgia.
The FSB said that the group had been planning to assassinate political leaders including the Moscow-installed head of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov.
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