Russia’s railways are critical to supplying its invasion of Ukraine, but with more than 20,000 miles of tracks, the system is vulnerable to attack by citizens opposed to the war. And that’s exactly what seems to be happening.
The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region announced on Monday that an explosive device damaged the railway near the village of Novozybkovo.
Russia’s logistics – the way it maintains supplies and communications with its ground forces – have come under increasing strain as the war has gone on.
The damage to Russian logistics has been a key factor in supporting Ukraine’s counteroffensives.
The latest attack on the railways Moscow uses to send supplies to Ukraine – this time apparently from inside Russia – will only add to the difficulties.
‘The war will not pass’
Novozybkovo is just a short distance from Russia’s borders with Belarus and Ukraine and is the main rail link with southern Belarus.
A Russian anti-war group called Stop the Wagons claimed responsibility for the sabotage.
In a message on Telegram, the group said the small explosive had caused so much damage that the rails would need to be completely re-laid.
“The war will not pass!” it added.
Pictures shared by the group appear to show a large chunk of rail missing in one area and a gap with buckled rails in another.
Sky News has been unable to independently verify the pictures.
‘Wider trend of dissident attacks’
In a tweet about the incident on Wednesday, however, the UK’s Ministry of Defence discussed the significance of attacks on Russian railways.
The department said: “This is at least the sixth incident of sabotage against Russian railway infrastructure claimed by Stop the Wagons since June.
“This is part of a wider trend of dissident attacks against railways in both Russian and Belarus.”
As long stretches of Russia’s rail links pass through isolated areas, the system is “extremely challenging to secure against physical threats”, the MoD said.
It added: “The Russian leadership will be increasingly concerned that even a small group of citizens has been sufficiently opposed to the conflict to resort to physical sabotage.”