News & Politics

What the Hell Is Going On in Russia?

What the Hell Is Going On in Russia?
(Screencap via Twitter.)

“What the hell is going on in Russia?” is the kind of headline you write when there’s so much weird stuff going on that it’s impossible to summarize it cleverly.


Maybe you’ll find this catchier: There’s a lot of stuff getting blown up in Russia, and it might not just be the Ukrainians blowing it up.

The weirdness got going in a normal way, with reports earlier this week of Ukraine’s “embrace of the British special forces model” to strike targets inside Russia that the regular Army (or even Ukraine’s inadequate Air Force) could never reach.

The Washington Examiner’s Tom Rogan reported that a major oil depot was hit on Monday in Bryansk, more than 60 miles inside Russia’s border with Ukraine. That’s outside the range of most of Ukraine’s drones.

While interesting, it isn’t exactly a “what the hell?” moment. British troops have been training Ukraine’s special operators since Russia annexed Ukraine and armed insurgents in Ukraine’s Donbas region back in 2014.

Two more such attacks were reported the next day:

Two explosions were reported in Voronezh, nearly 200 miles from Ukraine, and a Ukrainian drone was reportedly shot down over Kursk, about 70 miles from the border.

The attacks in Kursk and Voronezh, where air-defense systems were reportedly activated, raised the specter of a wider war, as they were farther inside Russia than previous targets.

If you had asked me last week if Ukraine could hit a target 200 miles inside Russia, I’d have been doubtful.

Actually, it’s still a bit hard to believe.


But maybe you’ll join me in asking “What the hell is going on in Russia?” after these next few items.

Last week in Tver, about 100 miles northwest of Moscow, a Russian missile research facility caught fire, killing 17. Russian authorities claimed the blaze was an accident, but they claimed the same thing at first about Moskva.

At nearly the same time, Russia’s largest chemical plant burned to the ground in Kineshma, about 150 miles east of Moscow.

On Wednesday, Newsweek reported on “mysterious explosions throughout Russia,” including an ammunition depot in Belgorod, well north of Kyiv. Almost at the same time, nearly 200 miles away in Voronezh, more explosions were reported in a neighborhood near Russia’s Baltimor military airfield. And in Kursk, about halfway in between Belgorod and Voronezh, more explosions were reported.

That would be a busy night even for the special forces of a much larger country than Ukraine.

Then this bit of weirdness happened in downtown Moscow on Wednesday:

Another one came in just as I was writing this report:

What the Hell Is Going On in Russia?

Tyumen is on the far side of the Ural Mountains from Ukraine in western Siberia.

But wait, there’s more.

On Friday, a Russian train engine derailed in the Bryansk region that was “reportedly traveling on the same line used by Moscow to send equipment and ammunition to Russian troops in Ukraine.” The track had been somehow damaged before the derailment.


Also last week — and this one slipped completely under my radar — the fifth of five military enlistment offices in Moscow was hit by arsonists since the start of the war.

Local recruitment efforts were “put on pause,” according to media outlet iStories.


Meanwhile, another oddity: Russian executives turning up dead in apparent murder-suicides with their families. That fate recently befell former executives from energy giant Gazprombank and Novatek, Russia’s largest independent gas producer. Their deaths are among a number of high-profile oligarch deaths in recent weeks.

So once more, I must ask: What the hell is going on in Russia?

A string of bad luck? Surprisingly effective Ukraine special forces? Popular resistance to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin?

Some combination of all three?

Whatever the case may be, it’s the nature of wars that were meant to be limited to spin out of control.

Recommended: Here’s a Fun Way for You to Stick It to Putin

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