Ukrainian Suicide Drone Attack At Russia's Volgograd Oil Refinery Sparks Fire

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by Tyler Durden
Sunday, May 12, 2024 - 12:30 PM

In defiance of repeated warnings from the Biden administration, the Ukrainian military is ramping up kamikaze drone attacks on the Russian energy complex, a move to hamper the nation's crude oil and crude product export revenues and curtail Moscow's ability to fund President Putin's 'special operation' in Ukraine.

The latest suicide drone attack struck early Sunday at Lukoil PJSC's large oil refinery in Volgograd, deep within the country and hundreds of miles east of the Ukrainian border, according to Bloomberg

"During the night of May 12, the air defense and electronic warfare forces fought off a drone on the territory of the Volgograd region," Governor Andrey Bocharov wrote on Telegram.

Unverified claims on X, one from OSINTtechnical said, "Overnight, Ukrainian forces successfully struck the Lukoil refinery in Volgograd, Russia. At least one drone hit the complex, reportedly setting the ELOU AVT-1 refining unit ablaze."

Belarus media outlet Nexta said, "UAVs attacked an oil refinery in Russia's Volgograd region. Propaganda media reported that after the strike, a heavy fire broke out."

Bloomberg noted, "The Volgograd refinery is capable of processing 14.8 million tons of oil a year and is among Russia's largest. It was previously struck by drones in February, when it temporarily cut back some of its operations."

On Thursday, a Ukrainian drone targeted Gazprom PJSC's Salavat Neftekhim, a top-producing petrochemical and oil-refining facility. On Friday, a drone strike targeted a smaller refinery in the Kaluga region.

In March, FT reported that the Biden admin was freaking out that Ukraine's drone strikes "risked driving up global oil prices."

One month later, in April, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned Ukraine that drone and missile attacks should not be focused on energy infrastructure but instead on military targets because of the risk of sending Brent crude prices over $100/bbl.

"Those attacks could have a knock-on effect in terms of the global energy situation," Austin said, adding, "Quite frankly, I think Ukraine is better served by going after tactical and operational targets that can directly influence the current fight."

In mid-April, Reuters estimated that Russia's refining capacity, which was offline due to drone attacks, was around 660,000 barrels per day, compared to 907,000 bpd offline at the end of March. Russia has stated it can repair all damaged units within two months. 

Russia's Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov said all damaged refineries would be restarted by the beginning of June.

The main goal of the refinery drone attacks by Ukraine is to crush Moscow's funding of the war by curtailing crude product (such as diesel) exports. 

Days ago, Foreign Affairs magazine writer Sam Winter-Levy penned a note titled "Why Ukraine Should Keep Striking Russian Oil Refineries," explaining that "with less domestic refining capacity, Russia will be forced to export more of its crude oil, not less, pushing global prices down rather than up." 

If Biden's foreign policy is to keep Brent prices below $90/bbl before the November presidential elections, and if Levy's analysis is correct, then this could only mean more drone attacks. However, this risks further escalating the conflict as no peace deal is in sight and the world marches closer to World War III.