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Ukraine drone hits one of Russia’s biggest oil refineries

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Ukraine has mounted one of the most wide-ranging attacks inside Russia in months, hitting energy sites and a major oil refinery in drone strikes on at least seven regions.

More than two dozen drones were reported over central Russia, with the defence ministry on Tuesday claiming to have intercepted most over regions bordering Ukraine.

But the strikes also caused big fires at two major energy infrastructure sites inside Russia, significantly damaging one of the country’s biggest oil refineries.

Ukraine regularly sends waves of drones deep into Russia, primarily targeting industrial sites, defence production facilities and energy plants. But it has also occasionally targeted symbolic sites such as the Kremlin roof, which was damaged in a drone strike in May 2023.

No casualties were reported on Tuesday from the overnight attack. Although Ukraine was blamed for the strikes by Russian officials, Kyiv has not made any reference to the incidents. A spokesperson for Ukraine’s air force declined to comment.

Map showing drone strikes on Russia by Ukraine

In addition to the drone strikes overnight, two armed militia units based in Ukraine and backed by Kyiv — the Russian Volunteer Corps and Free Russia Legion — made incursions from Ukraine into the Belgorod and Kursk regions of Russia.

The group of anti-Kremlin fighters has previously broken across the border into Russia leading to skirmishes with the Russian army. Russian pro-Kremlin military bloggers on Tuesday said several groups of armed men on pick-up trucks stormed the border, with some reporting gun battles.

The Free Russia Legion posted a video claiming to show its tanks crossing the border at night.

“We are coming to rescue you . . . from dictatorship,” a group leader said in a video. In another video, the group showed what it said was a Russian armoured personnel carrier being destroyed by its fighters.

Russia’s defence ministry said the attack, which began at 3am, had been repelled. It added that armed groups attempted to break through from Ukraine’s Kharkiv region into the Belgorod region at three separate locations.

Earlier on Tuesday the ministry claimed to have intercepted 25 Ukrainian drones over Russia, including 11 over the Kursk region and seven over the Belgorod region, both of which border Ukraine.

Most of the damage was caused to two Russian fuel facilities. A fire broke out at an oil reservoir in the Oryol region, local officials said, spreading more than 100 sq metres and leading to the evacuation of 17 people from nearby buildings.

The governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region in central Russia said a drone struck the Kstov industrial zone, causing a fire at an oil refinery owned by Lukoil, the largest non-state owned Russian oil company.

On Tuesday morning, officials in both regions said the fires had been put out.

Belgorod’s governor also said a drone released explosives that damaged electricity lines and left a dozen residential areas without power. Drones were also reported over the Moscow region and in the area near St Petersburg.

The head of the city of Taganrog in the Rostov region in southern Russia also told residents to shelter on Tuesday morning, because of the risk of drone strikes, the state RIA news agency said.

Russian officials regularly report drone strikes while social media channels, particularly on the Telegram messaging app, publish images shared by users of damage to buildings, shattered windows, drone parts on the ground and other visual evidence from impact sites.

Russian lawmakers had prepared legislation last year that would have banned the publication of much information around the Russian military, including the results of Ukrainian drone strikes inside Russia.

But the project was put on ice by the presidential administration, the Kommersant daily newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing an unnamed source. It said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s office did not want to “harm” the pro-Kremlin military blogger community, which would have been largely gagged by the law.

Additional reporting by Anastasia Stognei in Tbilisi

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