Newsweek has been reporting for weeks on a series of mysterious fires that have broken out across Russia in buildings, oil and ammunition depots, warehouses and other places.
The causes of the fires remain under investigation by Russian authorities, and the blazes remain unexplained. Ukrainian authorities have not officially claimed responsibility for them, although Western officials – like British armed forces minister James Heappey – have said that it would be “completely legitimate” for Ukraine to hit targets on Russian soil.
Newsweek has listed all of the mysterious fires reported in Russia in recent weeks, and tried to look at what links them together.
April 1, Belgorod
On April 1, a large fire was reported to have broken out at an oil depot in the Russian city of Belgorod. Local authorities confirmed that two depot workers had been injured and that the residents of three streets near the facility had to be relocated.
The cause of the fire wasn’t reported, but Belgorod’s regional governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, blamed the blaze on Ukrainian helicopters. “The fire at the oil depot occurred as a result of an air strike from two helicopters of the armed forces of Ukraine, which entered the territory of Russia at a low altitude,” Belgorod wrote on Telegram.
Newsweek has contacted Ukraine’s defense ministry for comment, but Kyiv hasn’t yet responded to the claims made by Belgorod local authorities.
April 21, Tver and Kineshma
Two fires were reported on Thursday April 21 in Tver, a city northwest of Moscow and only 110 miles from the capital. A fire broke out on the second floor of the Central Research Institute of the Aerospace Defense Forces in Tver in the late hours of the morning, and then spread to engulf a total area of about 2,700 square feet.
At least six people were killed in the fire, although some reports put the number of victims at seven. According to reports, 25 people were injured and 13 were brought to the hospital. The authorities didn’t confirm any casualties.
A second fire was reported at a chemical plant 330 miles away from the defense research institute.
Another fire was reported on the same day at the Dmitrievsky Chemical Plant in Kineshma, a city about 250 miles east of the Russian capital. It isn’t known what caused the fire at the plant, which produced chemical solvents.
April 22, Korolyov
On April 22, Ukrainian news reported that a large fire had broken out in the city of Korolyov, only 14 miles from Moscow. The news outlet reported that Russian authorities had kept quiet on the incident, “although the whole city sees smoke from the fire.”
Ukrainian news reported that the Korolyov Center for Security and Civil Defense of the Population later reported that “in the industrial zone on Frunze Street, the roof of the building caught fire.” The incident hasn’t been confirmed by Russian authorities.
April 23, Barvikha
On April 23, Russian media reported that a house in the city of Barvikha belonging to the family of the governor of the Moscow Region, Andrei Vorobyov, was burning. The source of the fire wasn’t immediately identified.
April 25, Bryansk
Russian authorities reported on Monday, April 25, that a fire had broken out at a fuel depot in Bryansk, a city halfway between Moscow and Kyiv. Clips of a second large blaze not too far away from the first fire were circulated on social media on the same day, but a second fire wasn’t confirmed by Russian authorities.
The fuel depot on fire was that of Druzhba, owned by Russian state-controlled oil pipeline company Transneft. The depot’s location was considered strategic for the conflict in Ukraine – but Russian authorities didn’t mention whether the fire was related to the war in Ukraine or not.
April 27, Belgorod
On April 27, Russian authorities and media reported that a fire had broken out at an ammunition depot in the village of Staraya Nelidovka, in Belgorod province, some 20 miles from the Ukrainian border.
According to Russian news agency TASS, the fire had been promptly extinguished by officials, but the source of the fire hasn’t been identified.
Belgorod, another province close to the Ukrainian border, is about 205 miles away from Bryansk.
April 28, Moscow
On April 28, explosions were reported on a Moscow street, with social media users sharing clips showing a number of cars on fire. The incident wasn’t mentioned by Russian state media or confirmed by Russian authorities.
Twitter account Ukraine War SitRep, which says that it reposts “verified media only about the Ukraine invasion by Putin,” wrote that the explosions were reported in a Kustanayskaya street in the Russian capital. “No one was hurt, the fire was extinguished, all the circumstances are being investigated now,” the account added.
April 30, Sakhalin island
On April 30, Sakhalin’s governor, Valery Limarenko, reported on his Telegram channel that a massive fire had broken out at the GRES-2 power plant on the island. The blaze was later put under control and extinguished by firefighters, according to the Russian Ministry of Emergencies.
The cause of the fire, according to energy supplier Sakhalinenergo, was an engineers’ attempt to shut down a turbine generator. This claim wasn’t confirmed by Russian authorities.
May 1, Perm
A massive explosion hit an ammunition plant near the Ural Mountains on May 1, killing two workers and injuring at least three others, according to local authorities.
The plant where the fire broke out was the FKP Perm Powder Plant in the city of Perm, which produces gunpowder.
After the incident, the Russian State Labor Inspectorate for the Perm Territory said in a statement that the deadly explosion had been caused by “a product” catching fire “at the production site N 12 of the Plastmassa production facility at the Perm Powder Plant FKP.”
News outlet Visegrad 24, which aggregates news about nations in the Visegrad region of Eastern Europe, reported that the gunpowder plant also produced material used for Russian military equipment, and raised the question of whether the fire was a case of sabotage.
Newsweek has been unable to verify the sabotage or the production claims.
May 3, Moscow
On May 3, videos showed that a large fire broke out at the warehouse of a pro-Kremlin publishing house near Moscow. The news was reported by the Belarusian news outlet Nexta, which said that the warehouse of the pro-Kremlin “Prosveshchenie” publishing house was on fire, as reported also by Russian news agency TASS.
According to TASS, the warehouse partially collapsed as a result of the fire, which was later extinguished. The cause of the blast wasn’t identified by Russian authorities.
May 4, Nizhny Novgorod and Nizhnevartovsk
On May 4, videos showed a fire broke out in an industrial zone of Nizhny Novgorod, a city about 260 miles east of the Russian capital.
The blaze was reported by the regional department of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, which said on Russian social media site VK that the fire had caused no injuries and there was no threat to settlements or the population.
On the same day, Russian news agency Interfax reported that Russian authorities were looking for “arsonists” responsible for trying to set on fire a military enlistment office in the city of Nizhnevartovsk using Molotov cocktails. Authorities didn’t elaborate on who the culprits were and what may have been their reasons.
May 5, Kursk
On Thursday, the latest in this series of mysterious large fires broke out in the city of Kursk, at the border with Ukraine. The fire was confirmed by Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations, according to Ukrainian news outlet TSN.
It is unclear where the fire broke out, as local news outlets first reported that a residential building was on fire, but they were later corrected by the Russian ministry, which said the reports were false, and that non-residential premises were on fire.
Russia hasn’t identified the source of these mysterious fires. Newsweek has contacted Russian authorities for comment.