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Ukraine drone hits fuel depot, fireball results

By Sarah May
|
May 1, 2023

A blazing inferno broke out at an oil depot in Russia-annexed Crimea on Saturday following a suspected Ukrainian drone strike, as CBS News reports.

The incident represents the latest salvo from Ukraine in the area and arguably lends credence to reported Russian speculation that a significant counteroffensive orchestrated by Kyiv is likely imminent.

Major Blaze Reported

As the U.K. Guardian reported, video of the sizable conflagration in the port city of Sevastopol was posted to social media, and a large area near the water could be seen burning, with black smoke rising up from the fuel stores.

According to Mikhail Razvozhayev, governor of Sevastopol, the fire engulfed approximately 1,000 square meters, as Politico noted, but it was contained relatively swiftly.

Aided by a firefighting force of 18 brigades on site as well as 60 firefighters, the blaze was ultimately extinguished without any injuries to first responders, according to the Guardian.

Russia Blames Drone Attack

The Guardian noted that Razvozhayev attributed the fire to a “drone hit,” presumably of Ukrainian origin.

The governor explained earlier in the week that a Ukrainian sea drone had tried to attack the Sevastopol harbor, and another had exploded, causing some damage to apartment building windows in the area.

The port city – which houses the base for Russia's Black Sea naval fleet – has been, as the Guardian further indicated, a frequent target of Ukrainian drone attacks of late, likely leading Razvozhayev to conclude that Saturday's blaze stemmed from just such an incident.

According to Reuters, however, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military claimed that he was unaware of any information conclusively indicative of his country's role in starting the fuel depot fire.

Counteroffensive Pending?

Though Ukrainian representatives stopped short of admitting responsibility for the drone strike suspected of sparking the depot fire, such activity would be in keeping with preparations for what many believe is an imminent counteroffensive against Russia, as Reuters notes.

Bolstering that notion were words from a Ukrainian military spokeswoman on Sunday, who said that efforts to undermine Russian logistical capabilities – such as those in Sevastopol – represent a key element for any counteroffensive action being planned.

As CBS News reported, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared in a recent interview that his military will indeed be working to reclaim the Crimean peninsula – annexed by Russia in 2014 – as part of an upcoming counteroffensive.

If the drone attack on the fuel depot was indeed intended to begin further destabilization of Russian logistics, however, Razvozhayev claimed that fuel supplies would not, in fact, be impacted in the aftermath of the blaze.

Tensions Rising

Reuters further noted that air defense capabilities in and around Kyiv were repelling missile attacks early Monday morning, in what may be a sign of growing Russian concerns about the aforementioned counteroffensive prospects.

Ukrainian southern command spokesperson Natalia Humeniuk explained that Saturday's depot fire has produced significant “anxiety” within the Russian military and could be prompting such action.

Humeniuk was quoted as saying, “The fact that the enemy's logistics are undermined...this work is preparatory for the broad, full-scale offensive, which everyone expects.”

With Ukraine all but admitting that the groundwork for its counteroffensive was all but complete, though not revealing details about possible timing for its launch, it appears that the country's ongoing conflict with Russia may be poised to enter a new and distinctive phase.