Oil depots in Russia and Ukraine caught fire on Wednesday as the two nations intensified their drone war against infrastructure ahead of Ukraine’s planned counteroffensive against Russia’s invasion. The drone strikes caused a fuel depot in Kropyvnytskyi, Ukraine, and an oil terminal on Russia’s side of the bridge to occupied Crimea to burst into flames. The two countries have been launching long-range strikes since last week, anticipating Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which is expected to be one of the most decisive phases of the war.
Russia fired a wave of missiles last Friday, including one that killed 23 civilians while they slept in an apartment building in Uman. Since then, there have been reports of drones attacking administrative buildings, homes, and industrial enterprises in Ukraine, while blasts have derailed freight trains in Russia’s Bryansk region. Moscow claims that its long-range attacks have hit military targets, but Kyiv has not commented on incidents in Russia or occupied Crimea.
Kyiv says destroying infrastructure supporting the Russian military in Ukraine is part of its preparation for the planned ground assault, which is ready to begin at any time. In Ukraine, air defences have mostly neutralized the latest attacks, especially around the capital Kyiv. Kyiv has been building up a force with thousands of fresh troops trained at Western bases and armed with hundreds of new Western-supplied tanks and armoured vehicles for its counteroffensive, while Russia has dug in heavy fortifications along the front line.
The fire at the Russian fuel depot has been classified as the highest rank of difficulty, with 188 firefighters battling the blaze using foam. Despite the magnitude of the fire, there were no casualties, according to Veniamin Kondratyev, the governor of the Krasnodar region. Videos posted on Russian social media showed flames and black smoke billowing over large tanks with red warnings of “Flammable.”
Russia’s TASS news agency reported that the fire was caused by a drone falling on the facility. Similarly, Moscow had blamed a drone for a huge fire on Saturday in Sevastopol, the naval base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. On the other hand, Ukraine’s governor of the central Kirovohrad region said three Russian drones had attempted to hit an oil facility in the region’s main city of Kropyvnytskyi, causing a massive fire. Ukraine says that it has shot down 21 of the 26 Iranian-made drones.
The war between Ukraine and Russia has been going on for five months, with Ukraine’s ground forces mostly on the defensive, while Russia launched a failed winter assault, capturing little new ground despite the bloodiest infantry combat in Europe since World War Two. However, with the upcoming counteroffensive, Kyiv hopes to end Moscow’s all-out invasion.