Source: Daily Mail
Flames lit up the sky over Russia in the early hours after suspected Ukrainian missile strikes blew up two oil storage facilities supplying Putin’s troops fighting for control of Donbas.
The Transneft-Druzhba Oil Depot, located in the city of Bryansk around 70 miles from the Ukrainian border, caught fire at 2am local time before a second fire broke out at a nearby military facility around 15 minutes later, Russian state media said this morning.
Video of the moment one of the fires broke out appeared to capture the sound of an incoming missile before a large explosion and fireball. Bryansk is a logistical hub for Russian forces battling Ukraine in Donbas, while the Druzhba pipeline is one of the main routes for Russian oil to reach Europe.
The blasts came as British intelligence said Russia had ‘yet to achieve a significant breakthrough’ of defensive lines in Donbas despite Ukraine imposing a ‘significant cost’ on Putin’s forces. Britain’s Ministry of Defence said poor logistical and combat support were hampering Russia’s advances, as they did in the failed effort to take Kyiv.
Ukrainian defenders holed up in the Azovstal steel works in the southern city of Mariupol – which is still under siege – were also pinning down ‘many Russian units’ and preventing them from redeploying to the Donbas front, while also exhausting Putin’s troops and reducing their combat effectiveness, the MoD added.
Russia’s war on Ukraine – which was intended to take just days and end with the toppling of its pro-Western government – is now into its third month, with Kyiv claiming to have killed almost 22,000 Russian soldiers while destroying military equipment worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.
In that time, Putin’s army has suffered a number of embarrassing losses – most notably the Moskva missile cruiser, which is thought to have been destroyed by Ukrainian missiles. The seeming inability to prevent Ukraine from striking targets inside Russia with missiles is also likely causing red faces inside the Kremlin.
Railway lines, oil facilities and military bases in Belgorod – another logistical hub in Russia but close to the Ukrainian border – have been targeted several times in recent weeks, including by low-flying helicopters. Klimovo, a village with a nearby military base in the wider Bryansk region, was also struck.
Rob Lee, a respected military analyst, said Monday’s strike on the city of Bryansk itself could have been carried out using Tochka-U ballistic missiles fired from within Ukraine which would be capable of ranging both the oil facility and nearby military base.
Russian emergency services claimed that no casualties had been caused in the explosions and that no evacuations were necessary because the fires posed no threat to nearby residential buildings.
Images from the early-morning hours in Bryansk showed the fires were still burning as the sun came up. Some 158 firefighters and 51 vehicles were still working to extinguish the blaze around 10am local time.
The Kremlin said an investigation will be launched into what caused the blaze, though it is unlikely to point the finger at Ukraine as doing so would confirm Kyiv’s ability to successfully attack military sites within Russia.
As the fires raged in Russia, the US was pledging more military support to Ukraine to ensure ‘it can win this fight’ after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin led the highest-profile American delegation to visit President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv since the war broke out.
Blinken and Austin said the United States had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition for Ukraine’s war effort, along with more than $300 million in foreign military financing.
‘The strategy that we’ve put in place – massive support for Ukraine, massive pressure against Russia, solidarity with more than 30 countries engaged in these efforts – is having real results,’ Blinken told reporters in Poland the day after meeting with Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials.
‘When it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding. Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence. That has failed.’
For his part, Zelenskyy in the meeting said he was ‘very thankful’ for the American aid and particularly praised President Joe Biden for his ‘personal support.’
‘The priorities are weapons and support from the United States of America and our partners, European leaders, in terms of our army’s strength and support in certain areas,’ the Ukrainian president said. ‘The second issue is the sanctions policy against the Russian Federation because of the full-scale invasion and all the terror they have committed in Ukraine.’
The three-hour meeting came Sunday, the 60th day since the start of the invasion, as Ukraine pressed the West for more powerful weapons against Russia’s campaign in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where Moscow’s forces sought to dislodge the last Ukrainian troops in the battered port city of Mariupol.
For the Donbas offensive, Russia has reassembled troops who fought around Kyiv and in northern Ukraine. The British Ministry of Defense said Ukrainian forces had repelled numerous assaults in the past week and ‘inflicted significant cost on Russian forces.’
In the south of the Donbas, in the strategic port city of Mariupol, a small pocket of Ukrainian troops continues to hold out against Russian forces in the Azovstal steel factory, a sprawling facility on the waterfront.
Mariupol has endured fierce fighting since the start of the war because of its location on the Sea of Azov. Its capture would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, free up Russian troops to fight elsewhere, and allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
Over the weekend, Russian forces launched fresh airstrikes on the steel plant in an attempt to dislodge the estimated 2,000 fighters inside. An estimated 1,000 civilians are also sheltering in the factory.
New satellite images by Planet Labs PBC, taken Sunday, show destroyed buildings across the steelworks and smoke rising from one area. Roofs have gaping holes; a soccer field is cratered from incoming fire.
More than 100,000 people – down from a prewar population of about 430,000 – are believed to remain in Mariupol with scant food, water or heat. Ukrainian authorities estimate more than 20,000 civilians have been killed. Recent satellite images showed what appeared to be mass graves to the west and east of Mariupol.