Russia and Ukraine Trade Drone Strikes on Energy Facilities

Yves here. Your humble blogger is unable to verify the claims made regarding damage to Ukraine versus Russian energy assets, although the Ukraine utility DTEK did confirm yet another successful strike on a thermal plant.

Twitter does show dramatic photos of big-looking fires at some Russian refineries, typically to what are depicted as storage units. However, I have yet to hear any of the (admittedly Ukraine-skeptic) commentators mention these fires. which suggests they are not as consequential as the images suggest.

There has also been a general propensity by Ukraine, and therefore Western officials and media relying on information from its government, to considerably exaggerate the effectiveness of their drone and missile attacks. For instance (as Brian Berletic explains in exhaustive detail on a recent talk), Ukraine has claimed it done substantial damage to Russian air defense systems. Berletic went though how many were allegedly hit, that they were only damaged and Russia has both ample parts and amply output of these systems (as in they could be replaced in their entirety, although that did not seem to be at all warranted in these recent cases).

So my reflex is to discount Ukraine claims of meaningful damage. But we have many readers who read Russian Telegram, and many Russian milbloggers are highly critical of how the war is being conducted, and thus would not be shy about reporting that damage was significant, if that were the case. So I hope readers can help sanity check this account.

By Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Cross posted from OilPrice

  • Russia attacked Ukraine with missiles and drones, targeting energy infrastructure and causing increased power outages in several regions.
  • Ukrainian drones struck deep inside Russia, setting oil installations on fire in the Tambov and Adygea regions.
  • The attacks have intensified the conflict, with significant damage to energy facilities on both sides and civilian casualties reported.

Russia attacked Ukraine with missiles and drones overnight, damaging energy infrastructure and prompting even more power blackouts, while Ukrainian drones reportedly struck deep inside Russian territory, setting oil installations on fire in two regions.

Ukraine’s national power company, Ukrenerho, said early on June 20 that four regions were targeted in the latest wave of Russian drone and missile attacks.

“Equipment was damaged at energy facilities in the Vinnytsya, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, and Kyiv regions,” Ukrenerho said in a message on Telegram.

A thermal power plant sustained “serious damage” in the Russian strikes, according to Ukraine’s largest private energy company, DTEK.”This is already the seventh mass attack on the company’s thermal power plant in the last three months,” DTEK said on Telegram, without disclosing the location of the facility. It said three workers were injured in the attack.

The latest wave of Russian strikes has also increased the number of scheduled power outages for domestic consumers, Ukrenerho said, adding, however, that electricity supply for critical infrastructure will not be restricted.

Separately, the air force reported that Russia attacked Ukraine with nine missiles and 27 drones. Ukrainian air defenses shot down all the drones and five missiles, the military said.

Russia has systematically targeted Ukraine’s critical energy infrastructure, causing enormous damage and limiting electricity supply for the civilian population, prompting regular blackouts.

In return, Ukrainian drones have struck deeper inside Russia, damaging energy facilities critical for Moscow’s military effort, mainly oil installations.

On June 20, drones belonging to Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) struck a fuel and lubricants warehouse in Russia’s Tambov region, some 400 kilometers southeast of Moscow, and a LUKoil oil depot in the North Caucasus region of Adygea, setting both on fire, a Ukrainian security source told RFE/RL.

The Baza channel, which is linked to Russian security services, confirmed that a fire had broken out at the Platonov oil depot in Tambov.

Veniamin Kondratyev, the governor of the Russian region of Krasnodar, said a private house was completely destroyed, and a local resident was killed in a Ukrainian drone attack on the city of Slavyansk-on-Kuban.

The SBU told RFE/RL that its drones had carried out almost three dozen successful attacks on Russian oil facilities in various regions since the start of the war.

None of the claims could be independently confirmed.

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  1. ChrisFromGA

    There is a big problem with Telegram and Twitter insofar as they are infested with fakes. I fell for one back several months ago that claimed to show the Rubymar sinking in the Red Sea, when in fact it was an old photo of a completely different ship taken years ago. (The Rubymar did eventually sink, though.)

    So, I would be skeptical of anything coming out of TG/X. It may be old photos or doctored stuff.

  2. ciroc

    Importantly, unlike artillery shells and missiles, Ukraine’s stockpile of drones is plentiful and nearly inexhaustible; in video clips posted on X and Telegram, it is not uncommon for three kamikaze drones to attack one Russian soldier. From soldiers on the front lines to civilians in the rear, Ukraine’s greatest weapon in tormenting Russia is not expensive Western-made tanks and missiles, but inexpensive domestic drones.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Yeah, you can imagine the west sending the Ukraine thousands of drones where they are manufactured out of reach from Russian attack.

    2. hk

      That’s the part I find most fascinating: insofar as Ukraine us getting the drones abroad (I think that’s majority), they are cheap commercial drones from China. It’s implications, especially against US/NATO style forces by, say, Iran, North Korea, or China, seems immensely profound.

        1. Yaiyen

          I dont believe its EU buying these drones for Ukraine, its Ukraine buying from china.So the ban will not affect Ukraine getting these drones

    3. Kouros

      Those are drones that cannot fly to far, kilometers or tens of kilometers.

      What is hitting Russia deep inside are bigger drones, that can also cary more explosive. Those are not as plentyfull.

      1. R.S.

        MnsHO is sabotage teams, prolly. Either infiltrated as refugees, or some local lowlifes. The operations I’ve heard of were somewhat similar to drug delivery: someone leaves an assemblied and charged short-range drone in a stash, a mule then picks it up, carries it close to the target, installs a local SIM and activates. The drone is then controlled remotely.

    4. Albe Vado

      I recently saw this pro-Ukrainian propaganda minidocumentary on precisely this topic, and it leads me to believe we really are in the endgame of the sad, slow Ukrainian decline.

      Because even the pro-Ukrainian sources can’t paper over the cracks. Both what’s said and what isn’t said are damning. They talk about small squads of drone operators going out at night to set up shop in secret locations, to pilot drones forty at a time and do whatever damage they can, while in the background the sound of Russian artillery is ubiquitous. Unsaid is that there is no Ukrainian artillery left to respond.

      Even while trying to portray the Ukrainian drone efforts in a positive light, they’re forced to admit it has a huge failure rate as Russian EW and anti-drone defenses nullify most of them.

      They interview the head of Ukrainian military production and he brags (?) that all production will be switched to drones. This is an admission that the ability to make anything else is gone (there’s also a potshot at the West not giving Ukraine what it needs, so it bravely has to go it alone, as if a hundred billion in equipment hasn’t already been sent to Ukraine and set on fire).

      Much of this production has to be done in civilian homes, because the larger industrial facilities are no longer active. This reminds me of something like the Japanese distributing rifle production throughout small household workshops, making products of ever decreasing quality long after the war has irrevocably turned against them.

      Drones by themselves aren’t actually a game changer. They’re an extremely important supplement to artillery, tanks, airstrikes, missiles, and soldiers. Ukraine is deficient in literally all of those. Drones by themselves can’t win anything. They can’t even hold the line. And even if they could, Russian vastly overmatches Ukraine, with factories mass producing drones, not little home workshops.

      1. Johnny Conspiranoid

        Shotguns might be usefull against these small FPV drones. It would be like shooting ducks.

    5. CA

      Arnaud Bertrand @RnaudBertrand

      Crazy, the US is passing a bill named “Countering CCP Drones Act” that would ban DJI drones in the US.

      I checked, DJI has 90% market share of the U.S. hobby market, 70% market share of the industrial market and over 80% market share of the first responder market. And their main competitor is Autel Robotics which… is also a Chinese company.

      Crystal clear now that the US is systematically banning all Chinese tech from their territory: Huawei, TikTok, EVs, solar panels, DJI, etc.

      Their hope is undoubtedly that this will kneecap China but the actual result in the US will be: no real 5G, outdated social networks, second-rate EVs, inefficient and expensive solar panels, and no drones… And I’m sure they’ll keep adding to this ever growing list. When your paranoia around “national security” ironically leads to a situation where you slowly fall behind your competitor…

      6:16 AM · Jun 20, 2024

  3. juno mas

    It’s not clear to me what type of drone (FPV?) is doing damage to Russian structures. If they are larger drones with substantial explosives on-board, I would imagine they are NATO dispatched and directed (guided). Somehow NATO seems to think they are not going to be ‘targets’ when push comes to shove in this affair. (I expect the Russian forces in Syria to ‘suggest’ attacks on those US bases there.)

    1. elkern

      I’m kinda surprised that we have heard of any mysterious explosions on British North Sea oil rigs yet.

      British missiles have apparently sunk most of the Russian Black Sea Fleet (finally getting vengeance for the Light Brigade?). I find it hard to believe that Russia is willing to just sit back and let the Tories sink Britain; I’d think they’d want to send some kind of [plausibly deniable] warning to anybody else who might be thinking about destroying Russian military assets.

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