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Ukraine Hits Third Russian Refinery in Escalating Drone Strikes

Ukraine Hits Third Russian Refinery in Escalating Drone Strikes
Destroyed Russian military machinery and Ukrainian civilian vehicles, displayed near the St Mykhailivsky Cathedral in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, 5 March 2024. (Photo: EPA-EFE / SERGEY DOLZHENKO)

Ukrainian drone attacks halted three oil refineries deep within Russian territory in an assault President Vladimir Putin said was aimed at disrupting his presidential election later this week.

An aerial strike on Wednesday caused a blaze at one of the country’s biggest crude-processing facilities, Rosneft PJSC’s Ryazan plant near Moscow. The smaller Novoshakhtinsk refinery in the southern Rostov region was also halted by a drone attack, adding to the disruption caused by a similar incident at Lukoil PJSC’s Norsi plant on Tuesday.

Since the start of this year, Ukraine has used drones to target important Russian oil facilities from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea. As fighting on the front lines swings in Moscow’s favor, Kyiv has been trying to hamper the country’s oil-product exports and its ability to send fuel to its forces. An initial flurry of attacks in February affected almost a fifth of the country’s crude-processing capacity, but by early March the industry was already recovering.

Ukrainian strikes in Russian regions “are aimed at, if not frustrating the elections in Russia, then interfering with them,” Putin said in an interview with the RIA Novosti news service published Wednesday. “Another goal is to get some kind of trump card in a possible negotiation process.”

The Ryazan refinery, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) southeast of Moscow, has a capacity of 17.1 million tons a year, or around 340,000 barrels a day. It is a major supplier of motor fuels for Russian regions around the capital.

The drone attack “started a fire” at Ryazan that was later extinguished, regional Governor Pavel Malkov said Wednesday on his Telegram channel, without giving details of the extent of any damage. Two people were hospitalized, the Tass news service reported. The plant had to shut down two primary oil refining units, Reuters reported, citing two people familiar with the matter.

The attacks underline how the invasion of Ukraine that was intended to last a few days is instead leading to growing insecurity for ordinary Russians living in regions near the border as the war enters its third year. That’s in sharp contrast to Kremlin claims that Putin is the guarantor of the country’s defense.

The Russian Defense Ministry said its forces intercepted 58 drones overnight in the Belgorod, Bryansk, Voronezh, Kursk, Ryazan and Leningrad regions. That’s among the largest assaults in recent months.

Later on Wednesday, the independent Novoshakhtinsk refinery in Russia’s southern Rostov region halted operations after a drone strike, regional governor Vasily Golubev said on Telegram, while giving no details of any damage. The facility has a capacity of 5.6 million tons per year, or around 112,000 barrels a day.

The three facilities hit by Ukrainian drones in the past two days account for about 12% of Russia’s oil-processing capacity.

Ukrainian Drones Target Russian Oil Refineries in New Warfare Tactics |

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said it was “totally fair” to inflict losses on the Russian state in retaliation for missile and drone attacks that are killing and injuring civilians in his country.

“I think everyone sees that our drones work, and they work at long distance,” Zelenskiy said in an address late Tuesday. “Our ability for long-distance strikes is the real way to move towards security for everyone.”

The latest wave of attacks that started Tuesday damaged a unit of Lukoil PJSC’s Norsi refinery in Nizhny Novgorod and hit an oil depot in the Oryol region. Ukrainian drones also repeatedly targeted Surgutneftegas PJSC’s Kinef refinery in Kirishi, on the Baltic coast, according to Leningrad region Governor Alexander Drozdenko. A drone targeting the Kinef refinery early Wednesday was downed, Drozdenko said.

Kinef is a major facility focused on making fuel for exports. Any significant disruption at this plant would have knock-on effects on the global diesel market.

Russia Battles Attacks by Ukrainian Drones, Rebel Troops

Ukraine was targeting the refineries in Ryazan, Kirishi and Norsi, a Ukrainian official with knowledge of the matter said.

The governor of Russia’s southern Voronezh region, Aleksandr Gusev, said 30 drones were destroyed. Some infrastructure and residential properties sustained “minor damage,” he said.

The attacks are taking place as Russia prepares for the March 15-17 presidential election that’s been tightly controlled by the Kremlin to deliver an overwhelming victory for Putin and another six years in power.

Ukraine has launched drones targeting Russian infrastructure and industrial facilities, as it seeks to undermine the Kremlin’s war effort and retaliate for waves of missile and drone assaults on its own territory since the February 2022 invasion began.

The strikes on oil facilities also aim to disrupt Russia’s exports and fuel supplies to the Russian army on the front lines.

“We are fighting everything that finances Russia’s army and the war,” Andriy Yermak, Zelenskiy’s chief of staff said, after Russian air strikes killed and injured civilians in three cities overnight. “Russia is fighting civilians and apartment blocks.”

Ukraine Says Russia Strikes Apartment Blocks, Killing Civilians

In his interview with state-run RIA, Putin said Russia would demand security guarantees to consider talks to end the war in Ukraine and reiterated that “realities on the ground” should be the basis of any negotiations.

“We are primarily interested in the security of Russia,” Putin said. “We will proceed from that.”

Asked if a “fair deal” with the West is possible, Putin replied: “I don’t trust anyone, but we need assurances.”

Ukraine’s government has previously rejected any deal involving territorial concessions that would reward Putin’s aggression. Putin has declared four annexed regions of eastern and southern Ukraine to be “forever” part of Russia, even as his forces don’t fully control them.

Russian troops have made recent advances as the government in Kyiv struggles to keep its military supplied with munitions following delays in aid from its US and European allies. Zelenskiy claimed this week that his forces have halted Russia’s offensive and were stabilizing the front line.

Putin said the thought of using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine had never crossed his mind and there’s never been a need for them. He didn’t think Russia and the US were heading toward a nuclear conflict.

Still, he said countries that declared they had no red lines toward Russia should understand that Russia would respond in the same way.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    Slava Ukraini! And to hell with RatPutin’s Republican Rubbish who listen to the Traitor Trump and refuse to pass the bill to support Kyiv.

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