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Russian soldier kills own comrades with grenade at ammunition depot

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A Russian army sergeant in Belgorod Oblast, Russia, has detonated a grenade and sparked a massive fire on the grounds of a military unit, killing three and injuring 16 of his own comrades, according to Russian state media. The fire broke out in the Tonenkoye village’s former cultural centre, which was until now used to store ammunition and house Russian soldiers, in the Belgorod region in southeastern Russia, state news outlet TASS reports. The accident reported 84 miles away from the liberated city of Kharkiv in Ukraine is believed to have been accidental.

The explosion reportedly sparked a fire that forced 15 residents to flee neighbouring homes.

A source in the emergency services told TASS: “The preliminary cause of the explosion is careless handling of ammunition.”

According to emergency services, a sergeant accidentally detonated a hand grenade in the building’s sleeping quarters, causing the platoon’s ammunition to explode and start a fire.

Eight more soldiers are still missing after the incident, local emergency services told the Russian news agency Interfax.

The 112 Telegram channel, which is closely associated with Russian intelligence agencies, reported the grenade was exploded in a weapons storage room by a senior sergeant acting as a squad leader

The explosion that followed started a massive fire that covered about 4,843 square feet, according to the Telegram channel.

The detonation is believed to have been brought on by an RGD-5 hand grenade, an anti-personnel weapon created in the early 1950s, the channel added.

According to the online newspaper Mash, the incident took place at 4.50 am (Moscow time) on January 14.

The soldier who caused the explosion survived and is being treated in a hospital. While no local residents were injured, 15 people were evacuated from nearby buildings.

The explosion was set off by an unnamed service member from the Sverdlovsk region, and all of those injured and killed were draftees, online publication Baza claims.

A criminal case has been opened, though the charges are unknown, the 112 Telegram reported. According to the Ren television network, the Tonenkoye cultural centre has been cordoned off, and journalists are not allowed to enter the area.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) says it is “possibly” a “fratricidal act of resistance against mobilisation”.

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The incident is the latest in a series of explosions in ammunition and fuel depots in the region. Local officials and state media have repeatedly attributed the blasts to Ukrainian shelling and missile strikes, while Kyiv has not claimed responsibility.

The RIA news agency claimed in October that during a firearms training session in Belgorod, 11 Russian soldiers were shot and killed, and another 15 were hurt. The gunmen, who had volunteered to fight in the Ukraine war, were killed at the scene, RIA reported.

After its controversial mobilisation of 300,000 reservists in October, Russia has relied more and more on conscripts throughout the course of its conflict, with Ukrainian officials fearing up to 500,000 conscripts could be drafted.

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