A fire broke out at an oil refinery in Russia’s Rostov region on June 22 after an apparent kamikaze attack by a Ukrainian drone. The incident is consistent with a pattern of Ukrainian-backed strikes on Russian infrastructure, showing that Ukraine is taking the fight behind Russian lines.
A video which appears to have been shot near the strike shows a small explosion moments after a drone approached the Novoshakhtinsk refinery.
The video appeared on Telegram and Twitter on the morning of June 22. Russian state news agency Tass says that the fire was caused by two drones flying into the refinery’s heat transfer unit, citing unnamed sources in the Russian administration.
Emergency services said that the fire covered an area of 50 square metres, but was successfully extinguished 1.5 hours later, with no reported casualties.
Russian business newspaper Kommersant reports that Russia’s Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case over the attack.
The refinery is located just 100 km from Rostov-on-Don in south-west Russia, far from the front line in the Donbas.
Ukraine Weapons Tracker, an open-source intelligence organisation, said that the drone captured in the video looked like a modified Ukrainian-made reconnaissance drone (likely from the PD-1 or PD-2 series) carrying explosives.
Ukraine has not officially taken responsibility for the attack. However, the 72nd Mechanised Brigade published a post saying: “For some reason, the Novoshakhtinsk Oil Refinery is on fire in Russia,” adding that hitting such a distant target using drones was “not bad!”
Since April, a series of explosions and fires in Russia have been linked to pro-Ukrainian saboteurs. An ammunition depot in Belgorod, an air base in Ussuriysk and a strategically significant Druzhba-Transneft oil depot in Bryansk were all targeted in quick succession.
Explosives found on the railway in Bryansk the day after the explosions added to the credibility of those attributing the attack to pro-Ukrainian saboteurs.
According to Russia, some Russian-operated gas rigs in the Black Sea off Crimea have also been hit recently. Three were reportedly injured in the attack, with seven more missing and assumed dead.
Sergei Aksenov, head of Russian-annexed Crimea, wrote in a Telegram post on June 20 that “this morning, the drilling platforms of Chornomorneftegaz were attacked. I am in touch with colleagues from the Ministry of Defence and the FSB, we are working on saving people.”
Some critics of Western arms deliveries to Ukraine argue that the use of Western weapons against targets in Russian territory could be used to justify escalatory measures by Russia.