Ukraine launches an offensive against the Russian oil industry |

The Ukrainian army has achieved a new feat far from the front. Its long-range bomb drones successfully attacked at least seven oil refineries in Russia last week, although Russian military accounts put the number at nine. The Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior states that so far this year there have been 12. kyiv and energy sector analysis centers estimate an interruption of up to 15% of Russian production of fuels from crude oil. This offensive represents an evolution in the use of long-range drones and in the strategy of taking the war to the invader’s territory.

Since the summer of 2023, Ukraine has regularly struck enemy targets hundreds of kilometers from its territory. Military airfields, factories, sabotage on the railway network and even drones that reach Moscow. But what happened this March is a qualitative leap that is surprising Ukrainian and Russian defense analysts. A key enigma, the Ukrainian military analysis outlet stated on Saturday Defense Expressis how Ukrainian forces are so apparently easily overcoming electromagnetic wave inhibitors that disconnect communications between unmanned vehicles and their pilots. Defense Express assures that along the Russian border with Ukraine there is a barrier of electromagnetic wave systems 10 kilometers in diameter.

But it’s not just that. The Institute for the Study of War, a leading American organization in the analysis of the conflict in Ukraine, received multiple criticisms last week from Russian military accounts that also questioned how it was possible that neither the electromagnetic defenses installed in the refineries nor No anti-aircraft defenses or helicopters could have shot down drones that have traveled up to 1,000 kilometers into Russian airspace. This is what happened on Saturday the 16th with the successful attack on two plants in the Samara region. In the specific case of the Novokuibishevsk refinery, a video spread on social networks showed the burning image of the distillation tower, a fundamental element because it is what obtains fuel from crude oil. The plant remains inoperative if the tower does not work.

The Tuapse plant, bombed on January 25 with drones 600 kilometers from free Ukraine, is still not operating, according to the Russian newspaper reported this March Kommersant. Bloomberg has reported that there are 31 crude oil refineries in Russia, most in the west of the country. The Russian army has assigned a large part of its air defense systems to the Ukrainian war scenario, which are key to its air dominance and to securing the initiative on the front, where it has superiority in all areas.

Objective: the distillation tower

Defense Express points out the high precision of the Ukrainian attacks that are capable of targeting the distillation towers. Another example happened on Wednesday the 13th, when drones destroyed the tower of a refinery in Riazan, 450 kilometers from Ukraine. At least Liuti drones were used in that attack [traducido, significa “furia”], devices that can carry 75 kilos of explosives and can travel up to 1,000 kilometers. The Liuti have been identified in other actions this year, as has also been confirmed the use of the UJ-26 (better known by their English name, Beaver) and the old Soviet TU-141 reconnaissance drones, adapted to serve as projectiles.

The number of vehicles that make up the drone swarms used in the attacks is unknown, but the Russian military analysis group Rybar stated that 17 drones were involved in the bombing of the Slaviansk refinery in the early hours of Sunday the 17th, of which 15 were shot down.

The Security Services of the Ministry of the Interior (SSU) of Ukraine and the Intelligence Services of the Ministry of Defense (GUR) have acknowledged being behind the main operations against the Russian energy sector. Both the SSU and the GUR have also demonstrated their effectiveness in attacking ships of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea with groups of nautical drone bombs. The vehicles operate with high coordination, seeking first to disable the ship’s rudder, so that it cannot maneuver; and they try to get a first hit on the hull of the boat, at a point where they know ammunition is stored. Once the first fracture in the hull is achieved, the rest of the drones aim at the same damaged point to widen the gap and ensure sinking.

Artificial intelligence

The campaign against Russian refineries coincides with the commitment of the Ukrainian Government and its NATO allies to incorporate artificial intelligence into combat drones. The objective is to make up for the artillery deficit on the front, but also the lack of long-range missiles for offensives such as the one that is putting tension in the Russian energy sector.

The United Kingdom and Latvia took charge this February of a NATO plan to supply one million drones to Ukraine in coalition with other countries. The parties involved have stressed that AI systems will be incorporated into these devices. NATO sources explained to the Bloomberg agency that the drones will be able to coordinate with each other, even with those that have lost connection with their pilots.

Both Kamyshin and the Ukrainian Minister of Innovation, Mikhailo Fedorov, have repeated since February that the priority is to incorporate AI into drone fleets, both those used on the front and long-range ones. No official source has indicated that the attacks against Russian refineries involved AI. Experts emphasize that the full autonomy of unmanned vehicles is still in an embryonic phase, but Olha Husieva, defense analyst at the Kiel Security Institute, explained to this newspaper last week that AI is already a priority area of ​​collaboration. between Ukraine and NATO.

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