A Ukrainian drone struck an oil depot in western Russia on Friday, sparking a major fire, officials said, as Kiev forces appeared to be expanding attacks on Russian soil ahead of the war's two-year anniversary. According to the local governor and state news agency Tass, four oil reservoirs with a total capacity of 1.6 million gallons were set on fire as the drone reached Klinzy, a town of about 70,000 people located about 40 miles from the Ukrainian border.
The attack appeared to be the latest in a recently stepped-up attempt by Ukraine to unnerve Russians and undermine President Vladimir Putin's assertion that life in Russia is business as usual ahead of the March 17 presidential election.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has promised to attack more targets in Russian border regions this year. Kiev officials say Russia's air defenses are focused on Ukraine's occupied territories, leaving more distant targets inside Russia more vulnerable as Ukrainian forces develop longer-range drones.
Firefighters extinguish oil tanks at a warehouse in the town of Klintsy, Bryansk region, Russia, January 19, 2024, which local authorities said caught fire after the military shot down a Ukrainian drone. Russian Emergencies Ministry/Handout/Portal
The Russian city of Belgorod, also near the Ukrainian border, canceled its traditional Orthodox Epiphany celebrations on Friday due to the threat of Ukrainian drone attacks. It was the first time that major public events in Russia were canceled due to the drone threat.
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Ukrainian national media quoted a Ukrainian intelligence official as saying Ukrainian drones also attacked a gunpowder factory in Tambov, about 370 miles south of Moscow, on Friday.
According to Russian news agency RBC, Tambov Governor Maxim Yegorov said the facility was functioning normally. The Mash news agency had previously reported that a Ukrainian drone crashed on the factory premises on Thursday but did not cause any damage.
In another attack that fit this pattern, the Russian Defense Ministry said a Ukrainian drone was shot down on the outskirts of St. Petersburg on Thursday.
According to Vladimir Rogov, who is responsible for coordinating Russia's annexed territories of Ukraine, the drone wreckage fell on the site of the St. Petersburg oil terminal on the southern edge of the city. Mikhail Skigin, the terminal's co-owner, confirmed that the drone had targeted the terminal.
St. Petersburg, Russia's second largest city, is about 560 miles north of the border with Ukraine.
In this photo from a video posted on the messaging app Telegram by Bryansk Region Governor Alexander Bogomaz on Jan. 19, 2024, oil deposits are seen in flames after a Ukrainian drone struck Klintsy, a town in Russia's Bryansk Region , has reached. Bryansk Region Governor Alexander Bogomaz/Telegram/AP
In Klintsy, the air defense blocked the drone electronically, but it dropped its explosive charge on the facility, said the governor of the Bryansk region, Alexander Bogomaz. There were no injuries, he added.
Russian Telegram channels shared videos that purportedly showed the fire at the depot, which sent thick clouds of black smoke into the air. The fire was difficult to extinguish and required specialized equipment, Bogomaz said, adding that 32 people were evacuated from houses near the depot.
The same depot was hit by a Ukrainian drone in May last year, but the damage appears to have been less.
Meanwhile, Russian shelling in Ukraine's northeastern Kharkiv region killed a 57-year-old woman and a landmine killed a man there, the Ukrainian president's office reported Friday.