Sabotage acts loom over Russia Victory Day celebrations

By Caravanserai and AFP

Russian military personnel walk along Tverskaya street in Moscow April 27, as military vehicles wait to start moving towards the Red Square for a rehearsal of the May 9 Victory Day military parade, in central Moscow. [Alexander Nemenov/AFP]

Russian military personnel walk along Tverskaya street in Moscow April 27, as military vehicles wait to start moving towards the Red Square for a rehearsal of the May 9 Victory Day military parade, in central Moscow. [Alexander Nemenov/AFP]

Explosions derailing trains, power lines cut and mysterious fires: increasing acts of sabotage inside Russia this week are overshadowing preparations for Moscow's most important celebration -- World War II Victory Day next Tuesday (May 9).

President Vladimir Putin has sought to portray Russia as safe and stable while troops have been fighting in Ukraine for more than a year and the death toll mounts.

Russia invaded its neighbour in February 2022 but has committed huge and costly blunders and made no substantial progress.

Even as authorities try to recruit more men to refill ranks decimated by death, resorting to wooing citizens of former Soviet republics, they have tried to reassure the Russian public that the conflict is distant and does not pose a threat to Russian territory.

Series of frightening incidents

But a series of incidents in recent days have served as a reminder that Russia, too, is exposed to enemy blows -- even hundreds of kilometres from the Ukrainian front.

They have come at a precarious time for the Kremlin: days before the May 9 grand celebrations, when Russia celebrates the Soviet victory over the Nazis in what has become a central event for Putin's rule.

Such incidents make Putin look incapable of protecting his own people. They give Russians a small taste of what Ukrainian civilians have been enduring for more than a year, as the Kremlin bombs and shells apartment buildings, hospitals and even a drama theatre that had been sheltering civilians.

On Tuesday, an explosive device derailed a freight train in a region bordering Ukraine for the second day in a row.

After a year of reports of sabotage on the railways, Monday's derailing was the first time Russian officials confirmed an attack of this scale.

On Monday too, some 900km away in a forest south of St. Petersburg, another explosive device damaged power lines, with the Federal Security Service (FSB) calling it an act of "sabotage".

Over the past five days, two fuel depots caught fire, in and around the Crimea peninsula illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.

The Kremlin on Tuesday acknowledged the 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," its spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

"All our intelligence services are doing everything necessary to ensure security."

Ukraine has followed its usual line of not claiming responsibility for the attacks, which came as Kyiv said it was finalising preparations for a spring offensive announced weeks ago.

May 9 'crucial' to Putin

Faced with growing risks, officials have cancelled traditional May 9 parades in major cities near the Ukraine border but also in some more distant Russian regions.

For now, the main parade on Red Square in Moscow will go ahead.

The main challenge for the authorities is to ensure that everything goes without a glitch.

Televised across Russia and showing off Moscow's military might, the parade is the main event of the year and essential to Putin's legitimacy.

"Incidents are not desirable: they will interfere with achieving the propaganda goal and reduce the feeling of security, especially among Muscovites," Andrei Kolesnikov, of the Carnegie Centre, said.

The parade usually brings together crowds who come with families to watch tanks and soldiers march through Moscow.

Since coming to power in 2000, Putin has promoted a patriotic cult around the 1945 Soviet victory over the Nazis, used to stoke patriotism and boost his legitimacy as the heir of Soviet power.

"It is the only 'glue' that unites the nation," Kolesnikov said.

"Now, the holiday is doubly important," he said.

"Because it is crucial to Putin to once again insert in the public conscience the simple, but crazy, idea that his 'special operation' (in Ukraine) is a continuation" of the war against Hitler.

The Kremlin continues to use the memory of the Soviet war effort to justify its offensive in Ukraine, claiming it is fighting "fascists" supported by the West.

Hunting down saboteurs

Since the Kremlin launched its Ukraine offensive in February last year, drones have regularly hit Russian territory, some of which have crashed in the Moscow region.

In March, the incursion of armed men from Ukraine into the Bryansk region caused shock, shattering the feeling of the border being impenetrable.

Army recruitment centres and railways have regularly been attacked, with authorities hunting down potential saboteurs.

Moscow has tightened its laws against sabotage, and treason and spying cases are multiplying.

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It's a military parade. Hence it's a legitimate target.


The Russkies WILL GET everything they deserve and even MORE for their aggression and mass KILLINGS of UKRAINIANS!!! The WHOLE progressive humankind HATES Russky Nazi Muscovy!!!