January 16, 2024

Wildberries: Where There's Smoke, There's Fire


Wildberries: Where There's Smoke, There's Fire
Wildberries's warehouse near St. Petersburg on fire. Interfaks, Telegram

In the early hours of January 13, a fire erupted in St. Petersburg at a 100,000m2 (more than 1 million ft2) warehouse belonging to Russia's largest online retailer, Wildberries. All the merchandise inside was burned, costing billions of roubles in damages.

At 7 a.m., stored household chemicals on the first block of the facility caught on fire. Warehouse guards attempted to surveil the 1,800 employees as they evacuated, but they were overpowered by a stampede.

No casualties were reported. Over 270 firefighters and 57 ladder trucks were able to contain the flames a few hours later. Forbes estimated that the damages caused by the fire ranged between R10-20 billion ($113,688,040 to $227,376,080).

English teacher Tatyana Bakalchuk founded Wildberries while on maternity leave in 2004. The online retailer has since expanded to a billion-dollar company delivering products ranging from clothes, electronics, and household supplies to over 18 countries, including the US, Israel, the EU, and former Soviet countries. However, the company was sanctioned by Ukraine in 2021. That same year the company invested R3 billion ($34 million) constructing one of its largest warehouses, near St. Petersburg.

On January 10, a fight between an Azerbaijani and a Tajikistani citizen broke out near the warehouse. The 33-year-old Azerbaijani was hospitalized with knife wounds, and the 35-year-old from Tajikistan was subsequently arrested. On January 11 and 12, authorities raided the Wildberries warehouse and arrested five employees for violating immigration law. Authorities are investigating whether arson was committed in connection with these incidents.

According to state news agency TASS, however, a cable malfunction was to blame for the fire. The St. Petersburg State Construction Authority noted that Wildberries had received permission to build the warehouse but had not applied for a permit to run the facility. On January 12, a pipe broke and flooded an area of the warehouse. Furthermore, the fire alarm had gone off multiple times the day before the incident and was disconnected. The media outlet RBK also speculated that careless handling of the fire could have led to the burning down of the warehouse.

On January 14, prosecutors began a criminal investigation for "abuse of authority" against unidentified employees in charge of fire safety compliance at the warehouse.

Wildberries said it would refund all buyers and compensate sellers for items lost in the flames.

You Might Also Like

Long, Long Repair
  • December 17, 2023

Long, Long Repair

It can take up to a year to get auto parts in Russia, due to Western sanctions.
Occupation Is Expensive
  • December 03, 2023

Occupation Is Expensive

An independent Russian news outlet reported that Russia is worse off economically because of its actions in Ukraine since 2013.
No Money, Only War
  • March 29, 2023

No Money, Only War

Russian authorities blame the "special military operation" for the disruption of infrastructural and social projects.
Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

Woe From Wit (bilingual)

Woe From Wit (bilingual)

One of the most famous works of Russian literature, the four-act comedy in verse Woe from Wit skewers staid, nineteenth century Russian society, and it positively teems with “winged phrases” that are essential colloquialisms for students of Russian and Russian culture.
Murder at the Dacha

Murder at the Dacha

Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin has a problem. Several, actually. Not the least of them is the fact that a powerful Soviet boss has been murdered, and Matyushkin's surly commander has given him an unreasonably short time frame to close the case.
The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

This exciting new trilogy by a Russian author – who has been compared to Orhan Pamuk and Umberto Eco – vividly recreates a lost world, yet its passions and characters are entirely relevant to the present day. Full of mystery, memorable characters, and non-stop adventure, The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas is a must read for lovers of historical fiction and international thrillers.  
Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

A book that dares to explore the humanity of priests and pilgrims, saints and sinners, Faith & Humor has been both a runaway bestseller in Russia and the focus of heated controversy – as often happens when a thoughtful writer takes on sacred cows. The stories, aphorisms, anecdotes, dialogues and adventures in this volume comprise an encyclopedia of modern Russian Orthodoxy, and thereby of Russian life.
Jews in Service to the Tsar

Jews in Service to the Tsar

Benjamin Disraeli advised, “Read no history: nothing but biography, for that is life without theory.” With Jews in Service to the Tsar, Lev Berdnikov offers us 28 biographies spanning five centuries of Russian Jewish history, and each portrait opens a new window onto the history of Eastern Europe’s Jews, illuminating dark corners and challenging widely-held conceptions about the role of Jews in Russian history.
The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar (bilingual)

The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar (bilingual)

The fables of Ivan Krylov are rich fonts of Russian cultural wisdom and experience – reading and understanding them is vital to grasping the Russian worldview. This new edition of 62 of Krylov’s tales presents them side-by-side in English and Russian. The wonderfully lyrical translations by Lydia Razran Stone are accompanied by original, whimsical color illustrations by Katya Korobkina.
Russian Rules

Russian Rules

From the shores of the White Sea to Moscow and the Northern Caucasus, Russian Rules is a high-speed thriller based on actual events, terrifying possibilities, and some really stupid decisions.
Murder and the Muse

Murder and the Muse

KGB Chief Andropov has tapped Matyushkin to solve a brazen jewel heist from Picasso’s wife at the posh Metropole Hotel. But when the case bleeds over into murder, machinations, and international intrigue, not everyone is eager to see where the clues might lead.
The Moscow Eccentric

The Moscow Eccentric

Advance reviewers are calling this new translation "a coup" and "a remarkable achievement." This rediscovered gem of a novel by one of Russia's finest writers explores some of the thorniest issues of the early twentieth century.
93 Untranslatable Russian Words

93 Untranslatable Russian Words

Every language has concepts, ideas, words and idioms that are nearly impossible to translate into another language. This book looks at nearly 100 such Russian words and offers paths to their understanding and translation by way of examples from literature and everyday life. Difficult to translate words and concepts are introduced with dictionary definitions, then elucidated with citations from literature, speech and prose, helping the student of Russian comprehend the word/concept in context.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
73 Main Street, Suite 402
Montpelier VT 05602

802-223-4955