A fire broke out Saturday on the property of a sanctioned Russian factory that is the country’s sole manufacturer of multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS).
The incident was first reported by Kommersant, an oligarch-owned Russian newspaper, which cited a statement from the Kremlin’s Ministry of Emergency Situations. The fire broke out on the grounds of the PJSC Motovilikha Plants in the central Russian city of Perm at around 8 p.m. local time, reportedly stemming from a transformer booth. A team was dispatched, according to the ministry, to handle the blaze, which had reportedly reached a size of 10 square meters.
“Today, a fire broke out at the transformer substation on the territory of the enterprise,” the factory’s press office said in a statement to Pravda. “The fire was promptly contained by the specialists of the Ministry of Emergency Situations who went to the spot.”
Numerous photos and videos have also begun circulating online showing the fire, including a brief clip posted to VK Video, in which the fire and a massive plume of smoke can be seen from close by. The plume can also be seen at a much greater distance in a series of photos and videos shared to Twitter by the Perm 36.6 independent news project.
“На территории предприятия произошло возгорание на трансформаторной подстанции. Специалистами МЧС, выехавшими на место, возгорание оперативно локализовано”, — сообщают на Мотовилихинский хаводах pic.twitter.com/djYJtYMoPV
— Пермь 36,6. ПРОТИВ ВОЙНЫ (@perm36_6) April 29, 2023
A video of the fire was also shared to Twitter by Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs.
The PJSC Motovilikha Plants is notable, according to Kommersant, in that it is the only factory in Russia that manufactures MLRSs, common fixtures on the modern battlefield that are capable of launching rapid volleys of missiles over long distances.
Last December, the plant was sanctioned by the European Union (EU) for providing these systems to the Russian armed forces during its brutal ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Kommersant also reported that the factory has been in bankruptcy proceedings since 2018.
A MLRS is seen in use by Ukrainian forces. A Russian factory known to manufacture MLRS was imperiled on Saturday when a transformer caught fire on its grounds.
Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images
Newsweek reached out to Russian officials via email for comment.
Perm is situated close to the center of Russia, roughly 1,500 kilometers east of Moscow. As such, it is unclear how likely it is that the fire was potentially caused by Ukrainian forces. Numerous strikes, both accidental and allegedly intentional, have been reported within Russia’s borders since the start of the invasion that the Kremlin has blamed on Ukraine. However, these incidents have happened much closer to the border between the warring nations.
In a statement to Newsweek on Sunday, European defense expert Rajan Menon with the Defense Priorities think-tank, said that the attack fit a pattern of suspicious incidents at Russian military-affiliated facilities, but that evidence did not exist to suggest Ukraine was responsible this time around.
“This is but one of the mysterious fires that have occurred over the past several weeks in Russia,” Menon wrote. “The fire in Perm was followed by the most recent episode, which occurred at an industrial site in the Kystovsky district of Nizhni Novgorod. There has inevitably been speculation about whether these fires are the result of Ukrainian covert operations (especially because some fires have occurred at military production facilities) or the work of resistance groups withIn Russia. I know of no hard evidence that points to, or rules out, either.”
Updated, 04/30/2023, 6:03 p.m. ET: This article has been updated to include comment from Rajan Menon.