Ukraine’s Armed Forces (AFU) have regained control of the Boyko Towers gas and oil production platforms located near the shores of Crimea in the Black Sea, which had been occupied by Russia since 2014.

“Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Russia has been using them for military purposes, including as helipads and for radar equipment placement,” reported the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense (HUR) via Telegram on Monday, Sept. 11.

What are the Boiko Towers?

These are gas production drilling platforms: B312, known as Petro Godovanets (built in 2010), and B319, known as Ukraine (built in 2012), situated off the coast of Crimea in the Black Sea.

In 2011, during pro-Russian politician Yuriy Boyko’s tenure as the head of Ukraine’s Ministry of Energy, Chornomornaftogaz, under the ministry’s control, acquired a drilling platform built in Singapore.

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The purchase of the floating platforms, made indirectly through the British company Highway Investments Processing, resulted in a $400 million markup in cost compared to buying directly from Keppel, the manufacturer. This raised concerns about potential embezzlement by Boyko and a criminal investigation was initiated.

When were the towers captured by the Russians?

In March 2014, during the Russian invasion of Crimea, the Russian military seized the Ukrainian drilling platforms Petro Godovanets and Ukraine while they were still in Ukraine’s territorial waters on the Odesa gas field. The Russians also took control of the self-elevating drilling rigs Tavrida and Syvash.

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By December 2015, the drilling platforms had been relocated to the Golitsyn field near the coast of Crimea.

As of 2022, the Russians had equipped each of these four stolen platforms with electronic reconnaissance and combat equipment, including the Neva radar and hydroacoustic systems. This enabled the Russian military to monitor the surface, air, and underwater space in the northwestern part of the sea between Crimea and Odesa.

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On June 20, 2022, the Ukrainian Armed Forces launched a missile attack on the Boiko Towers.

Who conducted the operation to return the towers to Ukrainian control?

The operation was executed by units of the HUR. These intelligence operatives successfully reclaimed the platforms Petro Godovanets and Ukraine, along with the drilling rigs Tavrida and Syvash, restoring them to Ukrainian control.

Special forces secured valuable trophies, including a stockpile of NAR-type (unguided aerial rockets) helicopter ammunition and a Neva surface ship tracking radar.

During the operation, a skirmish occurred between Ukrainian special forces on boats and a Russian Su-30 fighter jet.

“As a result of the fight, the Russian plane sustained damage and was forced to retreat,” the HUR said.

This incident could be referring to the battle that occurred on Aug. 22 in the Black Sea near Snake (Zmiiny) Island, in the vicinity of the Boykо Towers.

The Russian plane unsuccessfully attempted to target the Ukrainian boats with its cannon and air-to-surface weapons. Its attack was thwarted by a shot from a portable anti-aircraft missile, resulting in damage to the aircraft. The HUR said the aircraft left the scene and headed to an undisclosed airbase.

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No Ukrainian personnel were injured in the attack.

However, Russia gave a different account of the clash, saying Russian forces destroyed two high-speed Ukrainian military boats carrying landing forces using cannon fire.

On Monday afternoon, the HUR published photos of the operation and intelligence officers detailed the various stages of the operation including scouts navigating through stormy waters on rubber boats, a confrontation with enemy aircraft and the rescue of "Conan," a soldier who had fallen overboard and spent 14 hours in the open sea.

 

According to HUR, Conan is an HUR operator who fell overboard during an encounter with a Russian Su-27 fighter jet on a motorboat in the Black Sea.

 

His comrades were initially forced to withdraw under enemy fire, but they later returned with reinforcements. The search involved the use of a Bayraktar TB2 drone, which eventually detected the heat signature of Conan in the water.

Why is regaining control over the towers important for Ukraine?

As early as the end of August, the British Ministry of Defense reported ongoing battles between Ukrainian and Russian naval and air forces for these strategically vital gas and oil platforms in the Black Sea, situated between Crimea and Odesa.

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The ministry underscored that these platforms not only “control valuable hydrocarbon resources” but, like Snake Island, also “serve as forward deployment bases, helipads, and potential sites for long-range missile systems.”

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