Russian army sergeant set off grenades on conscripts in a bid to establish authority

Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen with an inset of a Russian soldier in Mariupol on May 18. A Russian official admitted Putin's military is "playing catch up" against Ukraine during a recent appearance on Russian state TV. MIKHAIL METZEL/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images; OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty Images

An explosion in Russia’s Belgorod region that killed five soldiers and injured 16 others was caused by a sergeant who set off a grenade at his unit as he tried to “establish authority,” according to local reports.

The blast reportedly occurred at a military facility in Belgorod region’s Korochansky district on January 14.

Belgorod is located near the Ukrainian border and houses several Russian military bases and training grounds.

According to Baza, a Russian Telegram channel that regularly posts information about security issues within the country, the explosion occurred at a cultural center re-purposed to house mobilized troops.

Russian emergency services told the state-run news agency Interfax that the sergeant accidentally detonated a hand grenade which caused ammunition to blow up and started a fire.

Baza said the man who caused the blast “picked up an RGD-5 grenade in order to establish authority over his troops.”

“After the explosion, which took place in a cultural center housing mobilized soldiers, ammunition detonated and a fire erupted over an area of 450 square meters. It took firefighters about four hours to extinguish it.” Baza reported.

Newsweek has been unable to independently verify the report, and has reached out to Russia’s foreign ministry for comment.

In a statement on Saturday, local emergency services said a fire broke out “as a result of the unintentional detonation of a hand grenade by a sergeant in a dormitory.”

“Sixteen servicemen, including the culprit, have been taken to hospital. Three more died,” the statement said.

A criminal investigation has been opened into the explosion.

The incident marks the latest blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military since Russian forces invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

On the evening of January 12, service personnel repairing a tank in the Belgorod region inadvertently blew up a T-72 tank, Baza reported.

A fire that broke out at a tank repair facility reportedly started after safety regulations were violated, caused ammunition to detonate, destroying one tank and damaging two others nearby.

There were no reported casualties, said Baza.

The T-72 tank has played a key role in the Russian military throughout the war.

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