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The bombs that a Russian designed in the Civil War

Explosion in kyiv. / ep

The practice of hiding explosives in corpses and objects was developed by a Soviet expert in a workshop in Valencia

Death lurks in many forms in the Russian-occupied cities of Ukraine, abandoned after days of fighting. In the last week, authorities and residents of towns such as Bucha have denounced the appearance of booby traps in the houses that the invaders have used, in such a way that opening a door has become one of the most dangerous gestures for people who return to Your domicile. President Zelensky himself denounced on April 2 that the Russian occupiers are “mining the entire territory” by leaving explosive devices hidden in the most varied objects and even in corpses. In cities like Dmytrivka, Ukrainian bomb squads deactivated 1,500 devices of this type, prepared to end the lives of people who carried out movements as innocent as removing a stuffed animal from the street.

The Russian Army has become an expert in this type of tactics for decades, in which it seeks to bring terror to civilians and at the same time prevent enemy soldiers from moving freely. In Afghanistan, for example, the Soviet military has already been denounced for dropping small toy-like bombs that maimed children who picked them up from the ground. This way of operating has an ideologue in Russia called Ilya Starinov, who was the one who trained the military so that they could turn any object into a lethal threat. This soldier, now deceased, intervened in the Spanish Civil War and was part of the Soviet contingent that helped the Republic. On Spanish soil, the destruction of 87 trains is attributed to him.

taSrinov is a myth for many Russian military and pro-Putin terrorist groups as well. This soldier, the son of a railway worker, participated in the war that followed the Revolution of 1917. Because of his military experience, he was sent to Spain and became an adviser to the XIV Guerrilla Army Corps, an attempt by the Republican government to wage war to the Francoist rearguard. Starinov instructed fighters in Valencia, Catalonia and Madrid and himself participated in sabotage and commando attacks. According to his memoirs, Starinov tried all kinds of tactics to deceive the Francoist soldiers and increase the damage that their explosives could cause. In a garage located in Valencia, the Russian designed special mines to blow up trains. There he designed sophisticated devices for the time that, for example, allowed artifacts to be buried in the railway and not activated until days after they were placed, so that they would not be detected by the National Army patrols.

One of the actions attributed to him is the placement of a load of 20 kilos of explosives on a mule used by the defenders of the Basilica of the Virgen de la Cabeza, in Jaén, where a contingent of the Civil Guard had been surrounded by militiamen. The besieged allowed the animal to enter, which exploded inside the monastery. Starinov, on the other hand, points out in his memoirs that at that time he met Ernest Hemingway and that the American writer was inspired by an American Jew attached to his unit to create the protagonist of the novel ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls ‘. This work, precisely, tells the story of an American volunteer in the Civil War who must blow up a bridge with the help of Spanish guerrillas.

Starinov spent ten months in Spain and returned to Russia in 1937, where he was a victim of the Stalinist purges. He was rescued from exile in Siberia thanks to the intervention of soldiers with whom he had worked and then he was entrusted with the preparation of the Soviet partisans who were to act against the Nazi troops that had invaded Russia. The Russian saboteur’s first mission was to plant hundreds of booby traps in the Ukrainian cities of kyiv and Kharkov, about to be occupied by the Germans. According to the mythology created around the character, Starinov managed to deceive the Germans and hide a powerful charge in the headquarters of the Ukrainian Communist Party, convinced that the building was going to be used as a headquarters by the German bigwigs. The guerrilla was successful and managed to set off the explosive when a German general was inside, who died from the detonation. The Russian soldier came to take charge of the sabotage around Moscow and was later sent back to Ukraine, where he was commissioned to destroy the logistics routes that supplied the Nazi Army. His group is considered responsible for the blowing up of more than 3,000 trains. Starinov passed away in 2000, at the age of 100.

Starinov’s job after the world war was over was to train Soviet commandos and saboteurs. There is a gap in this mission, since it took place in the middle of the cold war, when terrorism was used as another weapon in the confrontation between blocs. At that time, in addition, the use of booby traps in war conflicts skyrocketed. Given the proliferation of this type of tactics, which caused deaths among both civilians and soldiers, International Humanitarian Law included in 1996 a special prohibition on these devices. The expansion of the Geneva Conventions made it illegal, for example, to conceal explosives in a series of places and objects such as toys, graves, animals, food, medical supplies, monuments or corpses. In this sense, Zelensky’s accusation of the Russian Army for his actions in Ukraine supposes accusing him of a violation of the laws of war and, therefore, adds to the accusations of war crimes against the invaders.

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