Is Ukraine carrying out a campaign of sabotage in Russia?

A deadly fire at an aerospace research institute in Tver, northwest of Moscow; the burning of a munitions factory in Perm, more than 1,100 kilometers to the east; and two other oil depot fires in Bryansk, near Belarus: Coincidences or a sign that Ukrainians or their supporters are carrying out sabotage inside Russia to punish Moscow for invading their country?

Since the fire at the Central Research Institute of the Aerospace Defense Forces in Tver on April 21, which killed at least 17 people, social media has jumped on every report of a fire somewhere in Russia, especially in sensitive locations, as a sign that the country is under covert attack.

No one claims responsibility for these events, but analysts say that at least some of the incidents, particularly the one in Bryansk, point to an attempt by kyiv to take the war into its invaders’ territory.

In a Telegram post, Mikhailo Podoliak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, called the fires “divine intervention.”

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“Large fuel tanks burn up periodically…for different reasons,” he wrote. “Karma is a cruel thing.”

– “We do not deny it” –

In a country as populous as Russia, a fire in a factory or remote building would not normally be particularly surprising.

But since Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24, more than a dozen fires observed by people documenting the war have drawn a lot of attention on social media, amid fears that the Ukrainians are waging a concerted campaign of arson terror.

Even the fires late last month in Russia’s far east, at an air base north of Vladivostok and at a coal plant in Sakhalin, raised suspicions. And on Wednesday a conflagration affected a chemical plant in Dzerzhinsk, east of Moscow.

“Russian saboteurs against Putin are continuing their heroic work,” said Igor Sushko, a Ukrainian racing driver who regularly posts photos and videos on Twitter of suspected acts of sabotage inside Russia but offers no proof they were deliberate.

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Another Zelensky adviser, Oleksiy Arestovich, was equally opaque in statements to The New York Times: he pointed out as an example of this type of action that Israel never admits to its covert attacks and assassinations. “We don’t confirm and we don’t deny,” he said.

– Part of a strategy? –

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