Russia: Sabotage, Incompetence and Corruption in Russia

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November 28, 2023: Russia is suffering a growing number of attacks, accidents or whatever incidents involving defense activities inside Russia. The government says recent railroad accidents include derailments and damage to signaling and communications equipment. The Russian railroads are state-owned and operated, and move over 40 percent of Russia’s freight, often through areas where there is no other form of freight transportation. Ukrainian sabotage teams have also caused fires or explosions in factories producing munitions or components for complex weapons like guided missiles. The Russian government prefers to avoid discussion of Ukrainian special operations forces being responsible for sabotage inside Russia.

Railroads are particularly sensitive because Russia has a poorly developed highway system and depends on 85,000 kilometers of railroad tracks and thousands of rail cars moved by thousands of electric and diesel engines operated by over 700,000 railroad employees. These employees are government workers because railways in Russia are state-owned and operated. In addition to the track and hundreds of passenger and cargo stations, there are also 138 railroad tunnels and 30,727 bridges, each of them a vulnerable choke point of destruction or damage. There are also 0ver 160,000 remotely operated switches to keep traffic moving and avoid collisions.

Ukrainian sabotage teams in Russian territory disrupt railroad movement by damaging key elements of the railroad signals and communications systems. This makes the railroads less reliable and often leads to accidents that derail supply trains and block further use of that line until the wreckage is removed and the rails repaired. Ukraine has even been able to get operatives deep inside Russia to damage the Trans-Siberian Railroad, which is currently used to move weapons and munitions from North Korea to Ukraine.

Ukraine continues to concentrate on Russian logistics, using long range missiles and GPS guided aircraft bombs to destroy Russian supplies that have been stockpiled for troops to use. Russia responded by moving the stockpiled supplies farther from the front lines and, when possible, storing them in underground bunkers. Such bunkers are great in theory, but in practice there are not many of these bunkers and supply stockpiles often end up out in the open, on pallets and covered by tarps.

The rail connection from North Korea to the Russian railroad network was made possible by the completion in 2013 when Russia completed a 54-kilometer rail line from Russia to the North Korea railroad system. The new rail link was built through some very rough terrain and required 18 bridges and 4.5 kilometers tunnels to be built or rebuilt. Now it only takes 14 days to get cargo to western Russia and Europe by rail. It takes twice as long via Chinese rail links or 45 days by ship. In the past decade North Korea and Russia have both acquired more sanctions and restrictions on who they can trade with. Currently that mainly consists of pariah state Russia trading with pariah state North Korea. The common rail link makes a big difference. Before that the overland trade required trucks to be used over roads that are not in the best shape because of the difficulty in maintaining them and shortages of cash to pay for upgrades or maintenance.

 

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