Siberia train blasts reported

Ukrainian spy agency said behind 2 explosions on rail line

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (left) and Commander of Ukraine’s Ground Forces Col.-Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky look at a map during their visit to the front-line city of Kupiansk, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on Thursday.
(AP/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (left) and Commander of Ukraine’s Ground Forces Col.-Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky look at a map during their visit to the front-line city of Kupiansk, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on Thursday. (AP/Efrem Lukatsky)

KYIV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's spy agency staged two successive explosions on a railroad line in Siberia that serves as a key conduit for trade between Russia and China, Ukrainian media reported Friday. The attacks underscored Moscow's vulnerability amid the war in Ukraine

Ukrainska Pravda and other news outlets claimed the Security Service of Ukraine conducted a special operation to blow up trains loaded with fuel on the Baikal-Amur Mainline, which runs from southeastern Siberia to the Pacific Ocean in the Russian Far East.

The media cited unidentified sources in Ukrainian law enforcement agencies, a regular practice in claims of previous attacks in Russia. The security service, which is known in Ukrainian as SBU for short, has not confirmed the reports.

The first explosion hit a tanker train in the Severonomuisky tunnel in Buryatia early Thursday, causing a fire that took hours to extinguish, Russian news outlets said. The 9.5-mile tunnel in southern Siberia is the longest in Russia.

A second explosion hours later hit another train carrying fuel as it crossed a 115-foot-high bridge across a deep gorge while traveling on a bypass route, according to the Ukrainian news reports.

Russian railways confirmed the tunnel explosion but didn't say what caused it.

Russian daily business newspaper Kommersant cited investigators saying an explosive device was planted under one of the train's carriages.

There was no comment from Russian authorities on the second explosion.

Russia's top counterintelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, or FSB, said Friday that it detained a man accused of attacking a military air base in western Russia with exploding drones in July and staging an explosion that derailed a cargo train in western Russia last month.

The FSB identified the suspect as a dual Russian-Italian citizen and alleged he was recruited by the Ukrainian military intelligence in Istanbul and underwent training in Latvia before returning to Russia.

There was no immediate comment on the claim from Ukrainian authorities.

As the war continued into its 22nd month, Ukraine's forces shot down 18 of 25 Iranian-made Shahed exploding drones and one of two air-launched missiles that Russia launched early Friday, the Ukrainian air force said.

The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reported that Russian strikes across Ukraine killed at least four civilians and wounded 16 others between Thursday and Friday mornings.

Also Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the country's military to increase the number of troops by nearly 170,000 to a total of 1.32 million, as Moscow's military action in Ukraine continues into its 22nd month.

Putin's decree was released by the Kremlin on Friday and took force immediately. It brings the overall number of Russian military personnel to about 2.2 million, including 1.32 million troops.

It is the second such expansion of the army since 2018. The previous boost by 137,000 troops, ordered by Putin in August 2022, put the military's numbers at about 2 million personnel and about 1.15 million troops.

The Defense Ministry said the order doesn't imply any "significant expansion of conscription," saying in a statement that the increase would happen gradually by recruiting more volunteers. The ministry cited what it called "the special military operation" in Ukraine and the expansion of NATO as the reasons for beefing up the army.

Amid the continued hostilities, Russia and Ukraine both have kept a tight lid of secrecy on their military casualties. The Russian military has confirmed only just over 6,000 military casualties, but the West had much higher estimates. In October, the U.K. Defense Ministry tweeted in a regular update that Russia has "likely suffered 150,000-190,000 permanent casualties."