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A Russian oil depot caught fire hundreds of miles from Ukraine, the possible result of a daring Ukrainian drone attack

Feb 28, 2023, 23:32 IST
Business Insider
A Google streetview image of a Rosneft oil depot in Tuapse, Russia, dated to 2012.Google Streetview
  • A fire broke out at a Russian oil facility on Tuesday night, far from the country's borders.
  • The incident came amid a night of drone-inflicted chaos at multiple Russian sites.

A fire broke out at a coastal oil facility in southern Russia in the early hours of Tuesday, the aftermath of a possible drone strike by Ukraine deep into enemy territory.

Details on the attack were difficult to come by: Fires broke out in the early morning, as videos and photos that lit up Russian social media appeared to show.

Neither Ukrainian nor Russian authorities verified the incident as an attack, though Russian outlets said drones were seen near the oil facility, run by government-controlled oil giant Rosneft.

But an expert told Insider that Ukraine has the equipment to carry out such a strike. Similiar strikes, such as two on Russian air fields in December, have been attributed to Ukraine.

Local authorities said that the fire, at Tuapse oil depot on the Black Sea coast, spread to an area of around 200 meters square before being put out at around 3 a.m. local time.


Tuapse is roughly 300 miles from the nearest Ukrainian-held territory as the crow flies.

State news agency RIA Novosti said a drone had been seen overhead, while popular Telegram channels such as Baza and Face of War claimed that two drones struck the site.

Officials played down the incident, saying no oil was spilled and there were no casualties.

But local news outlet 93.ru cited nearby residents as hearing two loud blasts that shook their homes, while another Telegram channel posted a video purporting to show a massive explosion and a plume of flames.

Insider was unable to independently verify the video.


The apparent attack comes amid a barrage of both official and unofficial reports of drone attacks on multiple sites in Russia overnight.

Russia's Ministry of Defence said that there was a drone attack on a site in Krasnodar, though it claimed to have foiled it.

Ukraine has not commented on the incidents, and many details remain unclear.

However, Russian TV propagandist Vladimir Soloviev was quick to blame Ukraine and its Western allies for the incident, sending his vast Telegram audience a message that it was unreasonable to blame Russia's air defense for missing the drones.

Drones expert Dr James Rogers spoke to Insider about the incident, noting that much is still unknown.


But Soloviev's accusation is "a clear attempt" to shape the narrative ahead of any concrete facts being known, Rogers said. "One where NATO is allegedly directly helping Ukraine to attack Russia."

He said Ukraine has the means for such an attack, in the form of its domestically-manufactured Tu-141 drones.

This Soviet-era surveillance drone has a range of around 600 miles and can be adapted to have an explosive tip, he said, allowing Ukraine to strike inside Russia without using Western-supplied equipment.

"The clear line has been that Ukraine has not been using any of the systems that have been supplied by the West to do this, because that would be an attributable escalation back to NATO and Western forces," he said.

Ukraine has previously struck Russian territory with the same modified drones, unnamed Kyiv officials told Politico in December last year.


In an attack that Ukraine did not formally acknowledge, two bombers at the Engels air base in Saratov were damaged, some 300 miles deep into Russian territory, the outlet reported.

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