Ukraine launches its biggest drone attack on Russian oil facilities

Ukraine appears to have conducted its largest-ever drone strike against Russia, causing a massive fire to break out at an oil refinery hundreds of miles behind the front line.

The Russian defence ministry claimed early on Friday that its forces had downed 102 aerial drones and destroyed six more unmanned naval vessels in the heavy Ukrainian bombardment against Black Sea targets.

There were no casualties or any damage reported, according to Moscow’s statement.

However, unverified footage shared by Russian social media accounts appeared to show a Ukrainian drone smashing into Russia’s Tuapse oil refinery in the southern region of Krasnodar Krai.

A fire can already be seen raging at the facility, which is Russian oil giant Rosneft’s fourth-largest refinery, when the unmanned aerial vehicle crashes into the site.

Flames erupt at the Tuapse oil refinery after the Ukrainian strike
Flames erupt at the Tuapse oil refinery after the Ukrainian strike - via REUTERS

Local authorities confirmed the strike on the plant, saying “as a result of the fall” of one of the two drones, “an explosion occurred on the territory of the refinery”.

Fires also broke out in the port city of Novorossiysk, to the northwest of Tuapse, as fuel depots came under attack.

Russian sources shared footage of what appeared to be burning fuel depots at the port’s main railway terminal.

Fires also broke out in the port city of Novorossiysk
Fires also broke out in the port city of Novorossiysk's main railway terminal

Other unverified videos appeared to show the strikes on the port city – which has become the home to the Russian navy’s Black Sea Fleet because of Ukrainian attacks on Crimea – continuing as day broke over the coastal city.

In April, Russian officials claimed to have shot down 50 drones after Ukraine launched a major attack.

The attack on Friday morning was the first time Ukraine had targeted the oil facilities in Novorossiysk, Prof Damien Ernst, an energy expert at the Belgian University of Liege, said.

The port is a major exporter of oil, with an estimated 1.5 million barrels passing through each day, meaning the strikes could have a significant impact on Russia’s oil industry.

Despite US objections, Ukraine has steadily ramped up its long-range attacks on the Russian oil industry in recent months, in a bid to drive fuel prices up and limit supplies to the front line of their war.

The Ukrainian attacks early on Friday extended to a Gazprom oil depot in the nearby village of Kirilovka and the Transneft-owned oil depot in Grushovaya Balka, Astra, a Russian Telegram news channel, reported.

The outlet wrote that residents were ordered to stay indoors, with public transport services suspended and city traffic blocked.

Schools across Sevastopol, the city in occupied Crimea, were shut after an electricity substation was hit in the attack.

Mikhail Razvozhaev, the Russian governor of the city, said there would be rolling blackouts because of power shortages while repairs were carried out on the substation.

Internet connectivity in Sevastopol fell to about 16 per cent, according to monitoring group NetBlocks.

It was the third Ukrainian attack against the port city in two days.

On Thursday, Russian authorities reported Ukrainian missile attacks on the Belbek military airbase outside of Sevastopol.

Satellite images taken by Maxar Technologies appeared to show that two Mig-31 and one SU-27 fighter jets were destroyed in the strikes, which was believed to have been carried out with US-supplied Atacms missiles.

A fighter jet was destroyed in the attack
Fighter jets were destroyed in at attack on the Belbek military airbase outside of Sevastopol - Maxar Technologies
The strikes on the military base were believed to be carried out with US-supplied Atacms missiles
The strikes on the military base were believed to be carried out with US-supplied Atacms missiles - Maxar Technologies

The aircraft are known to carry the hypersonic Khinzhal missiles that are used in long-range attacks on Ukrainian cities.

Atesh, a group of pro-Kyiv partisans in the area, said the main missile and artillery depots at the airbase were damaged.

The long-range barrages came as Ukrainian forces struggle to contain a new Russian offensive in the north-eastern Kharkiv region.

Volodmyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, said his forces had “stabilised” the new front lines as of Friday, a week after he first confirmed the Russian cross-border offensive.

He told journalists that Russian forces had advanced six miles into the region since launching the attack.

But Gen Oleksandr Syrsky, the Ukrainian commander-in-chief, warned: “We understand that there will be tough battles ahead and the enemy is preparing for it.”

He also said the fighting could soon stretch to the northern Sumy region, which borders Belarus, as Moscow seeks to stretch Ukraine’s reserves.

In a boost for Kyiv’s battle-stricken forces, Mr Zelensky said on Friday that his men had enough artillery shells for the first time in the war.

The supplies are likely a result of American aid arriving in the country after Washington signed off on a $60 billion aid package last month.