Intruders attack defunct Russian TNT plant, three guards shot

Intruders attack defunct Russian TNT plant, three guards shot
A group of unidentified men attempted to gain access to a shut chemical plant that had produced explosives in the Urals, sparking a shootout with security personnel. Two guards remain hospitalized in serious condition.

The attack on the Krasnouralsk Chemical Plant took place early on Friday morning, but was not reported in the local media until Saturday.

“The factory has not been operational for a long time. It has no heat or electricity, and there isn’t even a perimeter fence,” the Sverdlovsk regional police department, which has taken over from local investigators, said in a statement, adding “the most likely suspects behind the attacks are scavengers looking for non-ferrous metals or locals settling a dispute. We are also examining other possibilities, but can rule out a terrorist attack.”

Security officers, who had been hired by local authorities to guard the plant last year, said they found a group of intruders on the factory grounds and attempted to detain them. A fight broke out, which ended when one of the raiders shot the guards with what police say was likely a hunting rifle before fleeing.

Three guards were taken to the hospital. One was discharged after being treated for head injuries, while two more remain in “serious condition” after undergoing surgery.

“The doctors are doing everything to restore them to health,” the head of the regional police department, Valeriy Gorelykh, told TASS.

Gorelykh said that the guard who sustained the lightest injuries was shown a series of photographs in which he recognized one of the attackers, but when the suspect was hauled in for a lineup, he failed to identity the raider.

Gorelykh denied reports claiming that there was still TNT at the plant at the time of the attack. However, it’s not yet clear if there are any other chemicals there.

The Krasnouralsk Chemical Plant has been a headache for the local authorities for decades.

Built in 1943, it suffered from a collapse of orders after the fall of the Soviet Union. It remained a lifeline for a town of 25,000 people, however, so it had to be subsidized from the public budget. When operational, the plant produced explosives, including TNT, gunpowder and detonators, sulfuric acid, and other chemicals.

The near-bankrupt factory was privatized in 2011 and, three years later, chemicals were brought in for a large new order. The contract was never fulfilled, however, and the plant was shut down in 2014. The plant was officially declared bankrupt in the summer of 2016.

Local media and environmental activists who have repeatedly explored the dilapidated brick buildings claim to have found explosives and chemicals stocks stored in unlocked spaces in the lightly-guarded, crumbling plant. Photos purportedly showing explosive chemicals casually strewn around the plant grounds in giant piles have been circulated on social media.

Following a series of crimes and calamities, including one in which Krasnouralsk was covered in a cloud of acrid, yellow smoke, residents staged a public protest, prompting local authorities to post guards at the facility. However, the latest incident suggests that a more permanent sealing off and decontamination may be in order.