Officials say four oil reservoirs in the west of Russia were set ablaze as Ukraine step up their attacks as the conflict approaches its second anniversary.
A Ukrainian drone has struck an oil storage depot in western Russia, causing a massive blaze, officials said, as Kyiv’s forces apparently extended their attacks on Russian soil ahead of the war’s two-year anniversary.
Four oil reservoirs with a total capacity of 6,000 cubic metres were set on fire after the drone reached Klintsy, a city of some 70,000 people located about 60 kilometres from the Ukrainian border, according to the local governor and state news agency Tass.
The strike apparently was the latest in a recently intensified effort by Ukraine to unnerve Russians and undermine President Vladimir Putin’s claims that life in Russia is going on as normal before its 17 March presidential election.
Previously, drone strikes have lacked a clear military objective and almost always caused no casualties or damage – especially if they were intercepted by Russian air defences.
However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has vowed to hit more targets inside Russian border regions this year. Russia’s air defences are concentrated in occupied regions of Ukraine, Kyiv officials say, leaving more distant targets inside Russia more vulnerable as Ukrainian forces develop longer-range drones.
The attack comes as a number of Russian cities, including Belgorod, near the Ukrainian border, cancelled their traditional Orthodox Epiphany festivities on Friday due to the threat of Ukrainian drone strikes.
It was the first time major public events were known to have been called off in Russia due to the drone threat.
Ukrainian national media, quoting an official in Ukraine’s Intelligence Service, said Ukrainian drones on Friday also attacked a gunpowder mill in Tambov, about 600 kilometres south of Moscow.
But Tambov Governor Maxim Yegorov said the plant was working normally, according to Russia’s RBC news outlet. The Mash news outlet had earlier reported that a Ukrainian drone fell on the plant’s premises on Thursday but caused no damage.
In another strike fitting the pattern, the Russian Defense Ministry said a Ukrainian drone was downed on the outskirts of St. Petersburg on Thursday.
The drone wreckage fell on the premises of the St. Petersburg Oil Terminal on the city’s southern edge, according to Vladimir Rogov, in charge of coordination of the Russian-annexed regions of Ukraine. Mikhail Skigin, the terminal co-owner, confirmed that the drone was targeting the terminal.
St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, is about 900 kilometres north of the border with Ukraine.
In Klintsy, air defences electronically jammed the drone but it dropped its explosive payload on the facility, Bryansk regional Governor Alexander Bogomaz said. There were no casualties, he added.
Russian telegram channels shared videos of what they said was the blaze at the depot, which sent thick black plumes of smoke into the air.
The fire is hard to put out and requires specialist equipment, Bogomaz said, adding that 32 people were evacuated from their homes near the depot.
The same depot was struck by a Ukrainian drone in May last year, but the damage was apparently less significant.
Meanwhile, Russian shelling in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region killed a 57-year-old woman and a land mine there killed a man, the Ukrainian president’s office reported on Friday.