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Ukraine drones attack multiple oil refineries in the campaign against Russia's strategic energy industry

Firefighters extinguish oil tanks at a storage facility that local authorities say caught fire after the military brought down a Ukrainian drone, in the town of Klintsy in the Bryansk Region, Russia January 19, 2024.
Firefighters extinguish oil tanks at a storage facility in Bryansk Region, Russia on January 19, 2024. Russian Emergencies Ministry/Reuters
  • Ukraine attacked another Russian oil refinery on Saturday night.

  • It comes after a week of drone strikes against Russian energy infrastructure.

  • The two largest strikes account for up to 12% of Russia's oil-processing capacity, Bloomberg reported.

Ukraine launched 35 drones against broad swathes of Russian territory Saturday night, causing fires at oil refineries and disrupting electricity in border regions, Russian officials said on Sunday.

The attacks come as part of a weeklong blitz of Ukrainian drone strikes on Russian oil and gas infrastructure in the lead-up to Russia's presidential elections, which conclude Sunday evening.

On Sunday, the Russian defense ministry posted on the Telegram messaging app that 17 drones had been destroyed over the southern Russian region of Krasnodar, four over the Moscow region, and the rest over six other regions.

"The drones were neutralized, but a fire broke out as a result of the fall of one of the devices," the operational headquarters of the Krasnodar region in southern Russia said on Telegram.

The fire at the Slavyansk refinery in Krasnodar was extinguished and there were no casualties as a result of the fire. However, initial reports had suggested that one person had died of a heart attack, the administration said.

Business Insider was unable to verify these claims independently.

Ukraine's security service source told Ukrainska Pravda that the attack was "successful, as a large-scale fire was reported near the atmospheric distillation towers, which were the primary targets."

The source further noted that the Security Services had recently struck 12 oil refineries in Russia, though it was unclear what period the source was referring to.

A long week of attacks on oil and gas infrastructure

This past week, Ukraine has made a concerted effort to degrade Russia's oil production capabilities.

The governor of Russia's Samara Oblast reported on March 16 that Ukrainian drones had attacked two Rosneft oil refineries. There were no casualties, though one facility caught fire.

Several Ukrainian media outlets later reported, citing anonymous sources in the Security Service of Ukraine, that SBU drones carried out successful attacks against the Syzran, Novokuibyshevsk, and Kuibyshevsk oil refineries.

Before the weekend's attacks, five strikes were reported at refineries in Ryazan, Nizhny Novgorod, and Leningrad regions.

The two largest strikes, at Lukoil's Norsi refinery, in Nizhny Novgorod and Ryazan on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, are reported to account for up to 12% of Russia's oil-processing capacity, per Bloomberg.

Ukr Rus fuel
Ukraine strikes fuel depot in Russia's Belgorod regionStringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Sources told Reuters that the main crude distillation unit was damaged at Norsi, Russia's fourth-largest refinery. It means at least half of the refinery's production is halted.

The strike on Ryazan shut down two damaged primary oil refining units after a fire, sources told Reuters. As a result of the attack, the refinery's capacity may reach 70% of the plant's normal production while damages are being fixed.

Ukraine hopes to disrupt Russian exports that fund its war

The strikes on oil facilities 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, the President's Chief of Staff told Bloomberg.

In his Saturday-night address, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said: "These weeks have demonstrated to many that the Russian war machine has vulnerabilities that we can reach with our weapons."

Zelensky thanked the Ukrainian military and defense-industrial complex for their achievements.

"What our own drones are capable of is a true Ukrainian long-range capability. Ukraine will now always have a strike force in the sky," he said.

Earlier this year, Business Insider reported that Ukraine had begun targeting Russia's oil and gas industry with small, cheap drones in an attempt to disrupt Russian supply lines.

By the start of February, fires had broken out at several Russian energy infrastructure locations following several suspected drone strikes.

One attack had hit another major oil refinery operated by Lukoil in the southwestern Volgograd region. Similar incidents had occurred across Russia in January, hitting the Slavneft-Yanos oil refinery, an oil refinery in Tuapse, a storage facility in Klintsy, and a Baltic sea Ust-Luga terminal.

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