Late in the evening on September 26th, reports appeared that one of Ukraine’s military warehouses in Kalinovka, Vinnitsa region, had been set alight and exploded. The danger of the fire raging in warehouse number 439 is testimony to the scale of the arms stored inside – aviation and artillery chemical ammunitions, and Smerch and Uragan rockets. The total volume of the armaments storage is 188,000 tons, and the warehouse itself is located just two kilometers from the village of Kalinovka.
The airspace of a 50 kilometer zone around the explosion’s epicenter is now completely closed. Fourteen Ukrainian trains have been forced to changed routes and the workers of the four closest stations have been evacuated. More than 30,000 people in the area have also been evacuated. At least two people were wounded by the explosion. According to the Vinnitsa Regional Administration, six towns in all have been evacuated. Representatives of the General Staff, Ministry of Defense, SBU, and National Police have all been sent to the scene. Approximately 2,500 people are now engaged in handling the emergency situation.
Ukraine’s military prosecutor, meanwhile, has qualified the situation in accordance with the law on “sabotage.” The pending investigation has been entrusted to the notorious Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), which is essentially the Ukrainian analogue of the Nazi Gestapo.
Let us draw attention to one important fact here: the scale of such an incident and its complexity will require a long and meticulous investigation and a review of a massive amount of information and reports. In Russia, emergency situations are met with several working plans. In this case, the military prosecutor would at the very start of the investigation focus on any evidence of the situation being man-made (artificial). In Ukraine, the latter theory has found immediate support from Kiev’s “Anti-Terrorist Operation Zone” in Donbass. The famous ATO propagandist, Yuri Butusov, has written on social media:
“The Armed Forces of Ukraine’s largest ammunitions depot in the village of Kalinovka, 20 kilometers from Vinnitsa, has been attacked. The enemy is continuing to systematically strike Ukraine’s military infrastructure. This catastrophe deprives us of enormous stockpiles of ammunitions. There has been no success in dispersing the ammunition despite the enemy’s numerous attacks and destruction of our strategic reserves. This is a most heavy blow to Ukraine’s defense capability.”
In other words, a verdict that the explosion is the work of sabotage has been reached even before any investigation has begun.
In fact, such an “investigation” and such media support might be evidence of an attempt by the Ukrainian military prosecutor to cover up traces of sloppiness – the result of rampant corruption in the Ukrainian Army.
The author’s review of Ukrainian regional media as well as the press of the Donbass republics has provided rich illustrative material for this hypothesis. Let us remind the reader that this is far from the first such large-scale fire and explosion at a Ukrainian military depot in recent times. In October 2015, shells detonated in a military warehouse in the city of Svatovo in the Ukraine-controlled portion of the Lugansk region. In March of this year, a fire and ammunition explosions gripped the city of Balakleya in the Kharkov region, as a result of which a seven kilometer security zone was introduced.
Some Ukrainian media have voiced the opinion that these incidents are actually the work of the military command and leadership of the UAF’s rear, done in order to hide traces of arms and ammunitions theft. An even more exotic theory is that the explosion at the Balakleya warehouse was designed to hide the sale of chemical weapons to Islamist organizations in Syria fighting against Syrian government forces.
In fact, the majority of Ukrainian social media users are inclined to support inconvenient (for the Ukrainian military) theories. While some believe that such incidents are indeed accidents, others, in the spirit of Butusov and the military prosecutor, see the “hand of the Kremlin” everywhere, while still others see the negligence of their own country’s authorities and demand resignations. Commenting on the military prosecutor’s office’s version, the Ukrainian journalist Alexander Dubinsky said ironically that everything that has happened in Ukraine since 2014 “can be qualified as sabotage.”
None of the theories popular among Ukrainian social network users, of course, can be accepted by Ukraine’s military and political authorities. Thus, Kiev has hastened to qualify the emergency situation as “sabotage”.
On September 27th, the press secretary of the UAF’s rear, Sergey Misyura, wrote on Facebook that several saboteur groups had been arrested in the emergency situation zone. One group, however, supposedly managed to escape, and subsequently detonated the ammunition storages with an explosive device attached to a UAV. This explanation is, in my opinion, absurd and politicized, not to mention reminiscent of the propaganda techniques of Big Brother in Orwell’s 1984.
Nevertheless, such a story meets the interests of the ruling regime by counteracting claims that the UAF’s rear lacks discipline and leaving any suspicions of corruption in the military leadership as a priori explainable as sabotage. Doubts as to the capability of the political elites to ensure the country’s security are also eliminated with such an official explanation. The Poroshenko regime, after all, has a record-breaking disapproval rating, and any emergency situation, including even a genuinely accidental one, could be used against it.
One can hardly doubt that this “little Chernobyl” in the Vinnitsa region will be actively used by the Ukrainian opposition to discredit President Poroshenko. An “independent investigation” will probably reveal “details” of the emergency situation in Kalinovka to the broader public. And the main culprit will, in the end, be President Poroshenko.