Four tanks at an oil depot in western Russia caught fire on Friday following a cross-border Ukrainian drone strike, officials said, forcing residents in the area to evacuate.
The inferno at the facility controlled by oil major Rosneft was spread over an area of 1,000 square metres along with tanks in Klintsy, Bryansk Region, Tass news agency said.
Bryansk governor Alexander Bogomaz said that a Ukrainian “aeroplane-style drone” was brought down and fire erupted after the munitions dropped over the oil depot.
The drone strike was the second on Russian oil facilities in two days this week.
While the Russian authorities suggested that the drone was shot down without causing the damage there were suggestions in Kyiv that such cross-border attacks are part of a new phase in Ukrainian strategy.
Andriy Yusov, a spokesperson for Ukraine‘s GUR military intelligence agency, neither confirmed nor denied Ukraine had been behind the attack, but said “such events regularly occur at the aggressor state’s military facilities”.
He told national TV that he expected the incident to complicate logistics for Russian troops, increasing Ukrainian forces’ “room for manoeuvre”.
Ukrainian media reports citing sources suggested that GUR was behind the strike that caused the massive fire.
“An aeroplane-style drone was brought down by the defence ministry using radio-electronic means. When the aerial target was destroyed, its munitions were dropped on the territory of the Klintsy oil depot,” Mr Bogomaz wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
Four oil reservoirs are burning at an oil depot in Klintsy, Bryansk region of Russia that was attacked by a drone last night, Russian media report.
Residents of nearby homes have been evacuated. The fire has been assigned an increased level of complexity. https://t.co/hRQF3mqp0U pic.twitter.com/KirIz17J4P
— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) January 19, 2024
No one was hurt in the attacks. But around 30 people were evacuated, the governor said.
The regional governor said air defence units had brought down two other Ukrainian drones on Friday over other parts of Bryansk, a region that borders around 70km north of the Ukrainian border.
“Currently, the fire area stands at approximately 1,000 square meters. Four fuel tanks with total volume of 6,000 cubic meters are burning,” the emergency services said on Friday.
In footage shared by the governor, the firefighters were seen directing water hoses at giant flames around the storage tanks, at least one of which looked to have been badly damaged, as thick smoke filled the air.
Amidst a nearly two-year-long conflict, Russia and Ukraine have engaged in targeted strikes on each other’s energy infrastructure. These strategic attacks aim to disrupt supply lines and logistics, serving both as a tactical advantage and a means to demoralise the opponent in a protracted war with no apparent resolution in sight.
A rare attack on Thursday targeted a major oil loading terminal in Russia’s St Petersburg. Russian officials said that the drone was destroyed and its wreckages fell on the St Petersburg Oil Terminal.
“Yes, last night we hit the target. This thing crossed 1,250km (776 miles) last night,” said Ukraine’s Strategic Industries minister Oleksandr Kamyshin on Thursday.
The attack was carried out using a domestically produced drone, a Ukrainian minister said quoting the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
There were also reports of Ukrainian strikes on a gunpowder factory in the Tambov region and its consequences were still being clarified, the Ukrainska Pravda outlet quoted a source as saying.
Due to the potential threat of Ukrainian drone strikes, the Russian city of Belgorod, situated near the Ukrainian border, cancelled its traditional Orthodox Epiphany festivities on Friday. This marked the first instance of significant public events being cancelled in Russia explicitly in response to the threat posed by drones.