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Drone attacks cause fires at two oil facilities in Russia (updates)

Ukraine carried out coordinated drone offensive hitting and damaging at least two Russian oil assets – a refinery in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast and a fuel depot in Oryol, the assault spread across multiple Russian regions overnight.
Oil processing unit on fire at Lukoil’s refinery in Kstovo, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Russia. 12 March 2024. Photo: source.
Drone attacks cause fires at two oil facilities in Russia (updates)

Overnight on 12 March, multiple Russian regions experienced a series of drone attacks, causing fires at at least two oil industry facilities. Russia’s Defense Ministry (MoD) stated that 25 Ukrainian drones were intercepted overnight across seven regions. However, they did not mention Nizhny Novgorod, where an oil refinery was reportedly struck.

The strikes continue a string of Ukraine’s suicide drone assaults on Russian fuel facilities, which previously made Russia cut its gasoline and diesel exports. Such attacks activated early this year.

According to BBC Russia, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported that air defense forces “destroyed and intercepted” 25 Ukrainian fixed-wing drones overnight across various regions. The breakdown includes seven drones allegedly destroyed in Belgorod Oblast, 11 in Kursk Oblast, two each in Moscow and Oryol Oblasts, and one each in Bryansk, Leningrad, and Tula Oblasts.

Oryol

Social media footage published overnight and in the morning shows a fire at an oil depot in Oryol, a city in western Russia some 170 km from Ukraine:

Oryol governor Andrey Klychkov claimed that a drone “crashed” at a fuel facility, causing a fire:

“[T]here was a UAV crash in Oryol. A facility of the fuel and energy complex was attacked. Special services are working on the site to localize the fire. There are no casualties,” he wrote on Telegram.

RIA Novosti, citing a source in the emergency services, wrote that a drone hit a tank with oil products, causing a fire. 

The area of the burning oil storage tank in Orel is 100 square meters,” the city authorities reported.

Later Governor Klychkov stated that the fire was extinguished.

According to the Russian Telegram channel Astra, citing its sources, a drone attack at the Orelnefteprodukt JSC enterprise in Oryol damaged a 2,000 cubic meter tank containing 150 tons of gasoline, resulting in a leakage of petroleum products.

“After the second UAV crash, which occurred an hour and a half later, two production buildings on the territory of the enterprise were damaged,” Astra added.

Nizhny Novgorod

Referring to regional authorities, the Russian state-funded TASS news agency said drones on 12 March morning “attacked the Kstovo industrial zone, a facility of the fuel and energy complex, and a fire broke out at one of the oil refining units.”

The town of Kstovo is located nearly 800 km in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast away from the border of Ukraine and some 400 km east of Moscow.

TASS added that Lukoil said the operation of the LUKOIL-Nizhegorodnefteorgsintez processing unit was temporarily halted “in connection with the incident.

Belgorod Oblast

Russia’s Belgorod region borders northeastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv Oblast.

Belgorod Oblast Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov claimed that a Ukrainian drone dropped four explosive items, damaging power lines: 

“Belgorod district was attacked by the [Ukrainian Armed Forces] using a UAV, which dropped four explosive devices. As a result of the explosions, there were no casualties, but there was damage to power lines. Seven settlements remain without electricity,” he reported on Telegram.

Unconfirmed reports circulating on social media claim that a Russian airfield near Valuyki, Belgorod Oblast, was hit, and Russian combat aircraft might have been damaged:

Moscow Oblast

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin claimed that in Ramenskoye city district, air defense forces destroyed a drone that was flying towards Moscow, resulting in no casualties or damage.

Saint Petersburg

The Saint Petersburg Governor did not report any drone attacks today, while Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed one UAV was downed in the region. Later a video emerged on social media allegedly showing a city’s power plant on fire.

The local Emergency Situations Service claimed that a fire had broken out in a warehouse near the Yuzhnaya thermal power plant, with wooden pallets burning in a 10×100 meter hangar and the fire spreading over 300 square meters.

Meanwhile, Leningrad Oblast authorities published a document specifying the restrictions on publishing information about the consequences of drone attacks: only the regional governor, vice-governor, Ministry of Defense, head of the Operational HQ, and his deputy are authorized to disseminate such information, according to the document.

It is unclear if the fire is related the the Ukrainian drone attacks, but issuing the restrictions today may mean that something was damaged in the region by the drones.

Oblasts of Kursk, Voronezh, Tula, Bryansk

The authorities of four regions in western Russia, neighboring Ukraine or lying halfway between Ukraine and Moscow, reported alleged downing of Ukrainian drones:

  • Kursk Regional Governor Roman Starovoit claimed that six drones were shot down in the skies of the region’s five districts.
  • Voronezh Oblast Governor Alexander Gusev claimed that air defenses shot down a drone over Voronezh City, noting that no air alert was declared. 
  • Tula Region’s “Ministry of Regional Security” claimed that “on-duty air defense means” destroyed a UAV and there was no damage to infrastructure or casualties.
  • Bryansk Region Governor Alexander Bogomaz claimed that air defense forces destroyed a fixed-wing drone, with no casualties and destruction.

Previous attacks on Russian oil infrastructure

In January, Ukraine reactivated its drone campaign, targeting Russia’s oil, fuel, and gas production.

Here are several examples of Ukrainian “kamikaze” drone attacks on Russian fuel infrastructure earlier this year:

Since the beginning of the year, Ukraine has targeted at least 12 oil and gas facilities with drone attacks, including refineries, oil depots, and gas terminals in the Bryansk, Kursk, Volgograd, Yaroslavl, Leningrad oblasts, Krasnodar Krai, and St. Petersburg, according to Moscow Times.

The attacks led to a 37% decrease in Russia’s gasoline exports and a 23% drop in diesel fuel sales in January, as reported by the Russian Ministry of Energy. The ministry attributed the reduction in exports to “unscheduled repairs” at oil refineries and the necessity to prioritize the domestic market.

On 1 March, the Russian government implemented a temporary ban on gasoline exports, effective until 1 September of this year. The ban does not affect the agreed volumes of supplies to the Eurasian Economic Union countries, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, and the Russian-occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia.

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