Fire! As Russians set fire to draft offices, we map the arson attacks
Fire! As Russians set fire to draft offices, we map the arson attacks
13 October 2022, 19:13

Illustration: Mari Msukanidze / Mediazona

Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, numerous military draft offices, police departments, FSB and Rosgvardia (National Guard) buildings, offices of United Russia and KPRF parties, and local authorities' buildings have been set on fire all over the country. With so many cases, it makes sense to put things into perspective, so we compiled a map of all anti-war arson attacks. This map will be updated regularly.

Most recent update: November 2.

The first six months of the war had seen dozens of arson cases. By the end of summer, they practically disappeared from the news, only to be rekindled after September 21, when Vladimir Putin announced the ‘partial mobilisation’. As of November 2, we know of 75 cases (34 before the mobilisation was announced, and 41 after). Not surprisingly, 52 arsonists picked Ministry of Defense buildings: draft and recruitment registration offices.

The most common tool of arson is a Molotov cocktail. Most of the attacks did not cause significant damage, but there were a few exceptions with burnt-out buildings.

In the first months of the war, investigators usually filed those cases under arson charges, but by late spring, they switched to terrorism. Some of the accused were first charged with arson but later the changes were amended to include terrorism.

On September 30, a week into the mobilisation, the Russian ministry of Defense announced that all arsonists would now be charged with terrorism. This hasn’t become a universal rule just yet: in different parts of the country people are sometimes still accused only of property damage (for now, we know about 12 cases of terrorism charges). It seems like the authorities don’t have a single plan on how to deal with these arson attacks.

The motivation of the arsonists isn’t always clear. Sometimes we know for sure they wanted to protest the war and the mobilisation. Some would exact vengeance on the police, some claim they just wanted to “mess around” or “make money.” But it’s difficult to say if the official press releases can be trusted. And many of the arsonists simply aren’t getting caught. On our map, we show all attacks on state buildings connected to the war in any way—or took place during the war.

Hover over the fire icon to get the arson info

Our methodology

We collect cases of arson attacks from openly available reports: mass media, Telegram channels, official statements, and court websites. For all of these cases, we try to find several sources, but it’s not always possible to get that level of confirmation. Authorities aren’t too eager to inform the public about those attacks, this can complicate the data verification process.

If you see a case of arson on the map which, as far as you know, did not actually happen, please, contact us (anonymously if needed), and we will double check it. The same goes for cases that you know have happened but are not on the map. This will help us make the map more accurate.

There could also be difficulties with what to count as attempted arson. Our logic is as follows: if a person was detained with Molotov cocktails near a military draft office, but failed to actually throw them, we count this case. When the police or other agencies claim they ‘prevented’ an attack, we do not count it. Without additional proof, we cannot check these statements of the FSB or the Investigative Committee (even if a person confessed, they could be forced to make this confession).

Although the main topic of public discourse is arson, we included other attacks as well: for example, when someone shoots at a building with an airgun or throws bricks at windows. However, cases like this are very rare, we could only identify several since the war had started.

We collect data about attacks on buildings which, according to attackers themselves, are in some way connected to the war. Apart from draft offices, buildings of the FSB, Ministry of Interior Affairs (mostly, police departments), and the National Guard, there were arson attacks on the Communist Party (KPRF) and the ruling ‘United Russia’ party’s offices. We do not include arson attacks on cars or pro-war banner burnings, even if they have a clearly ideological background.

Author: Olya Romashova

Data and visuals: Mediazona

Editor: Yegor Skovoroda

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