A neighbouring building stands scorched at the demolition site of a portion of the Diehl Metal Applications manufacturing facility following a fire that gutted the building on June 24, 2024 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)


Russian saboteurs ‘suspected’ over German factory fire


A fire at a factory in Berlin was possibly started by Russian saboteurs, according to security experts.

Intelligence agencies informed Germany authorities that the fire at the start of May at a factory owned by Diehl Metal Applications, a subsidiary of defence company the Diehl Group, was thought to have been caused by Russia.

Initially, the blaze was presumed the result of a technical malfunction but a NATO partner informed German officials that there were concrete indications of Russian State involvement, The Wall Street Journal reported on June 23.

Investigators said they suspected that Russian secret services hired criminals to carry out the attack and potentially paid them using cryptocurrency.

“This is like the gig economy for sabotage and terror — perpetrators get recruited like Uber drivers, but the effect is often the same as with using professionals,” an unnamed senior Western security official told The Wall Street Journal.

Communications intercepts which reportedly provided evidence of Russia’s involvement are not admissible in German courts, two German officials were quoted as saying, which prevented authorities from clearly attributing the attack and pursuing criminal charges.

Additionally, all surveillance recordings were destroyed in the factory fire.

The facility, a metals plant, stored sulphuric acid and copper cyanide, two potentially dangerous chemicals when ignited.

Insurance experts said they believed the blaze was due to a technical defect but did not rule out the possibility of sabotage “in pure theory”.

Allegedly, dozens of similar incidents have occurred in Europe since Russia’s war in Ukraine started, presumably to disrupt weapons production designed to aid Kyiv.

Despite the damaged Berlin factory being mainly a manufacturer of automotive parts, the Diehl group also produces guided missiles and anti-aircraft weapons.

Germany gave Ukraine two Diehl Iris-T system air-defence installation systems to help to protect the capital from Russian cruise missiles.

Russia has vowed retaliation in Europe for the help it gives to Ukraine. Also in May, European intelligence agencies had warned that Russia was plotting sabotage actions against Ukrainian allies.

Earlier, in April, police officers arrested and two men accused of being Russian secret agents planning to bomb industrial and military sites in Germany. The men had reportedly been in communication with Russia’s military intelligence agency (GRU).

Also in April, in the UK, two British men were charged with helping Russian intelligence services after a suspected arson attack on an Ukraine-linked business in London.

In the same month, Czech Republic transport minister Martin Kupka said Russia was trying to sabotage European railways by hacking into their signalling systems.

Elsewhere, France suspects Russia was behind a graffiti attack on a Holocaust memorial, possibly designed to stoke societal tensions, again in May.