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Massive Ukraine drone strike hits energy infrastructure in Russia and Crimea

In World
May 17, 2024
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Insights from Verstka, Ukrainska Pravda, and Foreign Affairs

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A massive wave of Ukrainian drones and missiles struck oil refineries, ports, and electricity stations in southwestern Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea early Friday.

The strike, which Russian authorities said involved more than 100 Ukrainian drones, is Ukraine’s biggest attack in months, as Kyiv aims to destroy military infrastructure and cripple Russia’s oil sector.

Residents in the port of Novorossiysk lost power Thursday night after drones hit at least two fuel depots and two oil terminals, the Russian outlet Astra reported, and the Crimean city of Sevastopol experienced rolling blackouts after Russian authorities said an electricity substation was hit. It was the third attack in two days against Sevastopol, where schools were closed on Friday.

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Ukrainian strikes have made Russian border towns unlivable

Russia’s war has transformed its once-thriving city of Belgorod, located 25 miles from the Ukrainian border, into a “ghost town,” CNN reported, as Kyiv has sought to bring the war to Russian soil. The city is a key military hub for Russian forces and has faced daily rocket and drone attacks. An exodus of people from Belgorod has led to a drastic economic downturn, the Russian investigative outlet Verstka reported. Closer to the Ukrainian border, looting has broken out in areas that have been almost completely abandoned, according to Russian authorities. A local newspaper reported that 178 people have died in Ukrainian strikes on the region, and thousands of buildings have been damaged by shelling.

Home-grown drones key to Ukraine’s campaign against Russia

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Source:  Ukrainska Pravda

Ukraine has fostered a homegrown drone sector after its Western partners’ unwillingness to supply weapons to strike Russia. Kyiv has ramped up production of its Lyutyy drone, given the success of the large kamikaze drone that is now used in 80% of strikes on Russia, Ukrainska Pravda reported. A former US Department of Defense analyst commended Ukraine’s decision to streamline its production, saying, “18 different drone types is good for innovating, but a campaign like this requires scale to maintain a good tempo of attacks.” At sea, Ukrainian-designed naval drones have helped compensate for Kyiv’s lack of a traditional navy, the Kyiv Independent reported.

Experts divided on the impact of Ukrainian attacks

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Sources:  The Telegraph, Foreign Affairs, Carnegie Politika

Russia is feeling the pinch” of Ukraine’s targeted campaign against its oil and gas sites, three experts wrote in Foreign Affairs, arguing that Kyiv’s regular attacks are eating into Russian revenues. But Sergey Vakulenko, an expert on the Russian oil sector, has questioned the extent of the strike’s impact. While he said the strikes help buoy Ukrainian morale and force Russian oil companies to pay for repairs, the drones do not have payloads big enough to destroy infrastructure. So far, he said, the damage has not had a significant impact on the sector at large, nor has it made a serious dent in Russia’s economy.

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