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Second Russian train hit by explosive near Ukraine border

#Russian #train #hit #explosive #Ukraine #border

An explosive device derailed a Russian freight train in a region bordering Ukraine for a second straight day Tuesday ahead of an expected counteroffensive by Kyiv.

Russian territory and Crimea, annexed by Moscow in 2014, have been hit in recent days by a series of attacks. 

The last four days have seen two trains derailed by explosions, a suspected drone hitting an oil depot in Crimea that caused a huge blaze and power lines blown up near Saint Petersburg.

The strikes 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. 

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

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. 

On Monday, a similar explosion caused a train to derail and catch fire near Unecha, in the same region but closer to the Ukraine border. 

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.” 

– Rail sabotage –

Russian Railways also put out a statement saying the train had derailed due to “the intervention of unauthorised persons in the work of rail transport. 

It did not mention an explosive device.

The state operator said the incident took place at 7:47 pm local time (1647 GMT) between Snezhetskaya and the nearby village of Belye Berega. 

It said the train’s front locomotive and “around 20 wagons” were derailed and that rail traffic in that section had been suspended.  

There have been many reports of sabotage on railways in Russia since Moscow launched its Ukraine offensive, but this week is the first time officials confirmed attacks. 

More than 65 people, including a third of minors, have been detained since the fall in around 20 regions of the country alone on charges of railway sabotage, according to a count by the independent media Mediazona published in mid-April.

Ukraine says it has been preparing for months a counteroffensive aimed at repelling Russian forces from the territory they currently hold in the east and south.

Denmark meanwhile said it was sending 1.7 billion kroner ($250 million) worth of military aid to Ukraine “to support the forthcoming Ukrainian offensive,”

The package included mine clearing vehicles, ammunition and financial support for the procurement of air defence, the Danish defence ministry said in a statement.

“The equipment…  is essential to pave the way for Ukrainian tanks and mechanised infantry on the front line,” acting defence minister Troels Lund Poulsen said.

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