Friday morning, a major fuel depot in Belgorod, Russia, was attacked by helicopters and left in flames. Russia is not happy.
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) April 1, 2022
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) April 1, 2022
There is a lot of stuff going on here that gives a “house of mirrors” effect.
What really happened?
Russia says it did; Ukraine says it didn’t. In fact, Ukraine is going full metal Alex Jones here, claiming a “false flag” attack.
The Ukrainian General Staff tells my colleague @fpiatov, it does “not have this information” that Ukrainian forces attacked an oil depot in Belgorod oblast, hinting that the attack could have been a Russian false flag operation to justify further brutal attacks on 🇺🇦.
— Julian Röpcke🇺🇦 (@JulianRoepcke) April 1, 2022
As silly as it sounds, there is a thread of plausibility. Ukraine and Russia are engaged in negotiations. Ukraine attacking targets in Russia could, rightfully, be seen as a provocation at a time when de-escalation might be warranted. Russia could, conceivably, perceive that an attack during hours of limited visibility could embarrass the Ukrainian government and give Russia some advantage. The counterpoint to that is that Russia didn’t spend that much ingenuity making up reasons for its invasion of Ukraine.
There’s really no need for a Belgorode style of a false flag this late into the war. Interpreted as a signal by Ukraine it’s a powerful one, demonstrating readiness to strike strategic targets inside Russia. https://t.co/mrXEnCBeSP
— Veli-Pekka Kivimäki (@vpkivimaki) April 1, 2022
Just four days ago, there was a similar incident in which a Russian ammunition dump exploded. It was attributed to both a Ukrainian missile strike and the world-class safety record of the Russian Army.
“Ukraine carried out a precision strike with the Tochka-U missile on an ammunition warehouse in the village of Oktyabrskoe, near Belgorod, Russia. Russia supplies its artillery attacking Ukraine with rockets and missiles stored at the facility,” Yury Butusov Ukrainian journalist https://t.co/n3sI0QSOgK
— Paul (@PaulPowloo) March 31, 2022
Both sides use the same helicopters and munitions, which doesn’t make things any easier.
On the other hand, look at the location of Belgorod.
Btw, A fuel depot near Belgorod would also have been a well thought out target which was worth the risk for Ukraine to attack. Look at the map, Belgorod (red indicator) would be the main supply area for the drive on Kharkiv, and from that down to Donbas. pic.twitter.com/wCx0pnwV1Q
— Phillips P. OBrien (@PhillipsPOBrien) April 1, 2022
The target was a fuel depot that would be needed to support this newfound “focus on Donbas” that no one had heard of until last week. The Russian military has devastated Ukrainian cities without regard for civilian casualties, so feelings are running high. At the same time, the Ukrainian Army is having some success and might be disposed to get a few licks in on Russian cities.
#Ukraine #map #war: Mapping the #Russian #invasion – Territorial #control as of April 1, 2022 #Russia #Putin #Belgorod (Hi-res version & more #maps: https://t.co/hYtdKvDDjS) pic.twitter.com/VTIQi8kFyK
— Cristian Ionita (@EdmapsCom) April 1, 2022
In my view, I don’t see the Ukrainian Defense Ministry as having ordered this attack. Neither do I believe the “false flag” story. The fuel dump at Belgorod is the right target at the right place at arguably the right time. Falling back on Ockham’s Razor, I think we have to give great credence to the notion that Ukraine did carry out the attack but that it was ordered by a local commander.