Ukrainian Drones Target Putin’s Prized Assets Deep Inside Russia

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An attack on a fuel terminal near St. Petersburg, Russia, is the latest reported Ukrainian drone strike against a target key to Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion.

Drone attacks on targets in Russian territory are believed to have been directed by Kyiv, although it often does not claim direct responsibility. They follow an aerial bombardment by Moscow of Ukraine in recent weeks, which has hit civilian infrastructure and tested Kyiv’s air defenses.

Newsweek has not yet been able to verify whether Ukraine was involved in the latest attacks and contacted the Ukrainian and Russian defense ministries for comment on Monday by email.

On Sunday, Alexander Drozdenko, Leningrad regional governor, shared images on social media of a fuel terminal alight at the Ust-Luga port, located on the Gulf of Finland and owned by Russian natural-gas company Novatek.

The St. Petersburg Telegram channel Fontanka.ru posted video footage of tankers moored close to a raging fire and said that two drones were spotted approaching Russia’s second city around 1 a.m. but swerved and headed to the port. Newsweek has been unable to verify the images and the footage as yet.

This illustrative image from January 16, 2024, shows partly covered in snow the wreckage of Iranian-made Shahed drone launched at Ukraine, at Kyiv Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Expertise, in Kyiv. Ukraine has reportedly fired drones at targets deep inside Russian territory on January 21, 2024.
ROMAN PILIPEY/Getty Images

Ukrainian media outlets RBC Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda, and Hromadske said that Ukraine’s Security Service was behind the attack, which Drozdenko said had caused no casualties. Russian state news agency Tass said that the incident that damaged two tanks and a pumping station.

Residents of nearby towns near the port reported the sounds of flying drones, and about 150 people had to be evacuated from the site, RBC Ukraine reported.

Hromadske said that the terminal had been hit in a precise strike. The facility is used to process fuel supplied to Russian troops, so the strike complicates logistics for Russia’s military. As the terminal is a key export site, the attack also delivers an economic blow to Moscow.

Also on Sunday, there was a drone attack on the Shcheglovsky Val military facility in the city of Tula, which produces the Pantsir-S anti aircraft missile system, Ukrainian news outlet Suspilne reported. Newsweek has as yet been unable to verify this report.

Residents reported a powerful explosion and fire in the Proletarsky district of the city, located around 100 miles south of Moscow, although the Russian Ministry of Defense said that it had shot down drones over the region.

Ukrainska Pravda sources also said that drones had also attacked military facilities in Smolensk, near the border with Ukraine, as well as the city of Orel. “The planned work of the Main Intelligence Directorate is underway,” a Ukrainian source told the outlet.

It comes as at least 25 people were killed and 20 injured by shelling at a market in the Russian-controlled city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, according to Russian-installed officials, although Kyiv has not yet commented on that attack.

Two days earlier, a fire broke out at an oil storage depot in Bryansk, southern Russia, after officials said it was hit by a Ukrainian drone. It set alight four oil tanks causing a blaze to spread over an area of 10,763 square feet.

Russian reports said that drone was shot down without causing damage, but there were indications in Kyiv that the attack marked a new phase in strategy. Ukraine’s Strategic Industries Minister Oleksandr Kamyshin said that “we hit the target. This thing crossed 1,250km (776 miles).”

In an interview with independent Russian news outlet Meduza, Mykhailo Podolyak, Ukraine’s presidential adviser, was asked about the civilian deaths in a Ukrainian attack on the Russian city of Belgorod on December 30.

Podolyak said that, under the UN Charter, Ukraine has the right to destroy everything that concerns the aggressor country, “including on its territory.”

“Russia is gradually starting a war on its territory. Because the blitzkrieg war did not work, everything will eventually move on to the territory of the Russian Federation,” Podolyak added.