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FT sources: US urged Ukraine to halt strikes on Russian oil refineries; Ukraine denies FT’s claims (updated)

FT claims that the US has warned Ukraine against continuing drone strikes on Russia’s energy infrastructure, citing concerns about rising oil prices and possible retaliation. The warnings were reportedly issued to senior officials in Ukraine’s security agencies.
oil refenary samara oblast 2024
The oil refinery in Russia’s Samara Oblast on fire, 16 March 2024. Credit: Russian Telegram channels
FT sources: US urged Ukraine to halt strikes on Russian oil refineries; Ukraine denies FT’s claims (updated)

The Financial Times claims, referring to three unnamed people familiar with the discussion, that the US has urged Ukraine to halt attacks on Russia’s energy infrastructure, warning senior officials at Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU) and Military Intelligence Directorate (HUR) that the drone strikes risk driving up global oil prices and provoking retaliation.

Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, both intelligence units have significantly expanded their drone programs to target Russian assets on land, at sea, and in the air.

Ukraine denies FT’s report that US requested to halt strikes on Russia’s oil refineries

According to FT, the US has urged Ukraine to halt drone attacks on Russia’s energy infrastructure, like oil refineries, terminals, and storage facilities across western Russia. Washington warned senior Ukrainian officials that these strikes risk driving up global oil prices, with one person saying the White House is frustrated as they hurt Russia’s oil production capacity despite sanctions, as oil prices have already risen around 15% this year to $85 per barrel.

The US is also concerned Russia could retaliate against energy infrastructure relied on by the West, such as the CPC pipeline carrying Kazakh oil to global markets, as per FT.

We do not encourage or enable attacks inside of Russia,” an NSC spokesperson told FT, while the CIA, the SBU, the HUR, and Zelenskyy’s office declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.

Ukraine has escalated its air attacks by expanding drone programs amid Moscow gaining initiative on the ground, as US aid for Ukraine has been stalled, and Kyiv is frustrated over the West’s inaction in curbing Moscow’s energy revenues.

Ukraine has escalated its drone strikes against Russian energy infrastructure, conducting at least 12 attacks on refineries since 2022, with nine occurring this year, along with strikes on terminals and storage sites. Employing advanced drone technologies capable of ranges exceeding 1,000 km and carrying payloads to inflict severe damage, Ukraine’s HUR and SBU have successfully targeted at least seven Russian energy facilities in consecutive days as part of broader offensives that also hit Russian ports and destroyed warships. These “special operations” aim to disrupt fuel supplies to Russian troops and cut funding for the Kremlin’s war effort by degrading Russia’s energy production and export capabilities.

Helima Croft from RBC Capital Markets stated Ukraine’s ability to target much of western Russia’s oil export infrastructure risks 60% of Russian exports, while rising petrol prices, up nearly 15% to $3.50 a gallon, concern President Biden amid his re-election campaign, as high fuel prices worry sitting presidents, says Bob McNally from Rapidan Energy, a former White House energy adviser, as per FT.

FT says the Ukrainian air campaign is also viewed by some officials as a strategy to pressure Washington into approving the critical $60 billion Ukraine military assistance package stalled by Congressional Republicans for months.

Ukrainian drone attacks on Russia’s oil industry have idled about 7% of its refining capacity in the first quarter, Reuters analysis shows, indicating an escalation in Ukraine’s targeting of Russian oil facilities to undermine Moscow’s economy.

Updates:

Ukraine denied the claims put forward by the FT:

Ukraine denies FT’s report that US requested to halt strikes on Russia’s oil refineries

On 23 March, the string of drone attacks on Russian oil refineries continued:

One more Russian oil refinery exploded last night

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