Three Russian soldiers have reportedly been killed and 16 more injured after one of their own accidentally set off a grenade in their barracks.
Emergency services told local news outlet Interfax that a sergeant, possibly a senior sergeant, "accidentally" detonated the grenade in the barracks' sleeping quarters in the early hours of Saturday (January 14), causing the platoon’s ammunition to explode.
The explosion reportedly started a fire covering about 450 square metres, which firefighters were able to extinguish in roughly four hours.
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All of those killed and injured were draftees, according to the Telegraph channel Baza, and the disaster happened during an ill-fated attempt by the sergeant "gain authority over his subordinates".
Eight more people are missing following the blast, while the soldier who detonated the bomb is understood to have survived and is now recovering in hospital, local news outlet Interfax reported.
Outside of the army barracks, 15 civilians have been evacuated from neighboring buildings, but no local residents were injured.
Meanwhile the military unit, located in a former cultural centre near Tonenkoye Farm in the Belgorod region of Russia – across the Russia-Ukraine border from Kharkiv – suffered severe damage.
The identity of the commander has not been revealed, but Baza stated that he came from the Sverdlovsk region.
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A criminal case has reportedly been opened, according to Telegram channel 112.
This isn't the first time violence towards more junior Russian troops at the hands of commanders has been reported – and often it isn't accidental.
Captured members of Vladimir Putin's controversial Wagner group, made up of convicted criminals turned soldiers, have spoken out after members of their crew were publicly executed by higher-ups.
"Those who disobey are eliminated – and it’s done publicly," one reportedly told Ukrainian captors earlier this week.
The Wagner group, run by Kremlin boss Yevgeniy Prigozhin, is made up of convicted murderers, rapists and drug dealers sent to fight on the front line.
While it was supposed to be Putin's most dangerous secret weapon in his invasion of Ukraine, they haven't always been the vicious fighters Putin might have hoped.
The crooks-turned-troops have reportedly taken heavy casualties during their assault on the mining town of Soledar, and not just from Ukraine, but from their own ranks too.
"There are squadrons of liquidators… shelling began," the former inmate reportedly added of one particular execution.
"One of the prisoners laid down and didn’t cover his own men.
"The shelling stopped, he went back, and the boss shouted: 'Why didn’t you go forward?'
"And they killed him. The boss is killed if his team deserts."
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