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US urges Ukraine to halt strikes on Russian refineries - FT

US urges Ukraine to halt strikes on Russian refineries - FT Photo: Oil refineries are burning in Russia (Russian media)
Author: Liliana Oleniak

The US has called on Ukraine to stop attacks on Russian energy infrastructure, warning that drone strikes could cause global oil prices to rise, as well as US gasoline prices, which could hurt President Joe Biden's re-election bid, according to Financial Times.

Repeated warnings from Washington were addressed to high-ranking officials of the Security Service of Ukraine and Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, sources told the Financial Times. Both intelligence services have steadily expanded their drone programs to strike Russian targets on land, sea, and air since the start of the Kremlin's full-scale invasion in February 2022.

One person said the White House was growing frustrated with Ukraine, whose drones have struck oil refineries, terminals, warehouses, and storage facilities in western Russia, damaging its oil capacity.

Russia remains one of the world's largest energy exporters, despite Western sanctions on its oil and gas sector. Oil prices have risen about 15% this year to $85 a barrel, sending fuel prices soaring just as US President Joe Biden kicks off his re-election campaign.

Washington is also concerned that if Ukraine continues to strike Russian targets, including many located hundreds of kilometers from the border, Russia could retaliate against the energy infrastructure that the West relies on. This includes the KTK pipeline, which supplies oil from Kazakhstan through Russia to the world market. Western companies, including ExxonMobil and Chevron, use the pipeline, which Moscow briefly shut down in 2022.

US National Security Council representative says the US does not encourage and does not allow attacks inside Russia. The CIA declined to comment. In Kyiv, the representative of the SSU refused to comment. Representatives of the DIU and the office of Volodymyr Zelenskyi did not respond to requests for comments.

US urges Ukraine to halt strikes on Russian refineries - FT

Photo: Financial Times

Strikes at refinery

Ukraine has stepped up its airstrikes in recent weeks as its drone program expands and the tide of the ground war shifts in Moscow's favor. It also follows growing discontent in Kyiv over the West's duplicitous approach to curbing Moscow's energy revenues.

According to a military intelligence official, there have been at least 12 attacks on major Russian refineries since 2022 and at least nine this year, as well as several terminals, warehouses, and storage facilities.

Helima Croft, a former CIA analyst now at RBC Capital Markets, recently noted that Ukraine has shown it can strike much of Russia's western oil export infrastructure, putting about 60 percent of the country's exports at risk.

The US objections come amid a tough re-election battle for Biden this year and rising gasoline prices, up nearly 15% this year to around $3.50 a gallon. Bob McNally, president of consulting firm Rapidan Energy and a former White House energy adviser says nothing scares a sitting American president more than rising fuel prices in an election year.

Technology development and strike targets

Ukraine is steadily increasing the number of drone strikes as its technology develops. Ukrainian officials claim to have developed drones with a range of more than 1,000 km and a payload capable of causing serious damage.

Kyiv carried out two of the largest and most massive drone attacks last week, with DIU and SSU operations successfully targeting seven Russian energy facilities over several consecutive days. Over the past year, DIU and SSU naval drones have also struck Russian ports, destroyed several Russian warships in the Black Sea, and struck Moscow's prized Crimean bridge, which connects Russia to the occupied Ukrainian peninsula.

According to one Ukrainian official who was involved in the planning and execution of the attacks, the purpose of the special operations was to disrupt the supply of fuel to Russian forces and cut funding for the Kremlin's military efforts. Kyiv also wants to strike a symbolic blow, bringing the war closer to Moscow and showing that its air defenses, particularly around the Kremlin, can be breached.

Some officials also see the air campaign as a means of pushing Washington to approve a $60 billion military aid package presented in Congress that is crucial to Ukraine's defense, the Financial Times notes.

Drone strikes on Russian refinery

Since January, Ukraine has stepped up its attacks on Russian oil infrastructure, striking major oil refineries to damage the supply of the Russian army.

The Insider agency calculated that in 2024 there were 15 drone attacks on 13 oil refineries in nine regions of the Russian Federation. Of them, eight objects suffered significant damage.

For more information on whether strikes on the refinery can bleed Russia and help Ukraine at the front, read the RBC-Ukraine article.