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SBU says it caught Russian saboteurs red-handed planting railway explosive

Ukraine’s security service says it has detained suspected Russian FSB agents caught planting explosives on a Poltava Oblast railway line used to transport military matériel amid the ongoing war.
SBU detaining suspected FSB saboteurs in Poltava Oblast. Photo: Telegram/SBU
SBU says it caught Russian saboteurs red-handed planting railway explosive

Ukraine’s SBU security service announced on 26 March that it had disrupted a Russian sabotage plot targeting a critical railway line used to transport military supplies to the frontlines. In a special operation in Poltava Oblast, the SBU detained two suspected Russian agents red-handed as they were planting an improvised explosive device near the railroad track and electric lines powering the rolling stock.

According to the SBU, the two detainees, residents of Kyiv and Kharkiv oblasts, intended to remotely detonate the explosive in an attempt to blow up a section of the railway connecting central and eastern Ukraine. This strategic line operated by the state-owned Ukrzaliznytsia railway and rail transportation company is vital for the logistics of transporting weapons, ammunition, and fuel to Ukraine’s Armed Forces, which are fending off the ongoing Russian invasion.

According to the SBU’s investigation, the saboteurs were acting on direct orders from a career officer of the 5th service of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). This FSB handler instructed the agents to commit the railway sabotage timed to coincide with the latest wave of Russian air strikes targeting Ukraine’s infrastructure on 21 and 22 March, but the perpetrators were detained at the scene by the SBU.

The FSB’s Fifth Service for Operational Information and International Relations focuses on the “Ukrainian question,” coordinating agents in Ukraine from its Moscow office, analyzing intelligence, and devising plans for subversive operations.

The SBU says it has confiscated the mobile phones used by the detained agents to coordinate with their Russian handler. The Ukrainian prosecutors have already identified this FSB officer who provided the sabotage mission.

SBU investigators have served both detainees a notice of suspicion under Part 2 of Article 28, Part 2 of Article 113 (sabotage committed under martial law by prior conspiracy by a group of persons) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, meaning the criminals, who are now in custody, face potential life imprisonment sentences.

The SBU security service provides regular updates regarding its counter-intelligence and anti-sabotage activities:

  • In February, Ukraine’s Security Service said it had neutralized a major FSB military intelligence network operating in Ukraine, detaining five members of the ring. The network reportedly included current and former Ukrainian intel officials.
  • Last fall, Ukraine’s counterintelligence uncovered a network of local women operating as Russian agents in Hirnyk, Donetsk Oblast, with charges of treason and unauthorized distribution of military information. Three Ukrainian citizens were detained by the SBU, and one Russian citizen is currently in Russia.
  • In December, Ukrainian Security Forces captured a suspected FSB agent involved in missile strikes in Kyiv a year ago.

The Agency is also actively involved in hostilities on the front, with its special operations units regularly destroying Russian weapons and equipment, using aerial drones.

Additionally, the SBU is involved in sabotage campaigns in Russia, targeting military infrastructure.

For example, on 30 November, as part of a special operation, the SBU orchestrated an explosion inside the Severomaisky tunnel in Buryatia, Russia, along the Baikal-Amur Railway. This was followed by another train carrying fuel exploding on a crucial bridge along the same railway on 1 December, marking the second phase of the operation. The SBU reportedly staged a total of four explosions within the tunnel, a key route connecting Siberia to European Russia and a significant part of Russia’s military and civilian infrastructure, while the freight train was passing through.

Alongside Ukraine’s HUR military intelligence, the SBU is also involved in a strategic bombing campaign deep inside Russia, and in Ukraine’s efforts to destroy Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, using maritime drones.

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