A Ukrainian drone struck an oil refinery in St Petersburg overnight, dodging Russia’s most advanced air defense system, sources have told Kyiv Post.

According to Russian media, residents of the city were woken by a loud explosion in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

“The roar was recorded on video from an intercom in Nevsky, but it was also heard in Kupchino, Kirovsky and even in the very center of the city,” Mash reported.

 

A source in Ukraine’s special services confirmed it was the sound of a Ukrainian drone striking the Nevsky Mazut oil refinery in an operation by the Main Intelligence Directorate (HUR).

Russian media reported several storage tanks at the refinery were damaged but that  fires were “quickly extinguished.”

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Russian air defenses using the S-400 Triumph system attempted to shootdown the drone at around 4:20 a.m. but according to Russian media, it continued to fly for another 30 minutes before crashing into the refinery.

Referring to the effectiveness of the S-400, the source told Kyiv Post: “It is scrap metal.”

The Kremlin has yet to comment on the attack, but St Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport reportedly suspended all flights between 3:53 a.m. and 5:11 a.m.

Earlier this month, Ukrainian drones struck an oil depot in Russia’s St Petersburg with one of them reportedly having flown over President Putin’s Valdai residence.

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It marked the first time the northern city – which is some 1,000 kilometers from Ukraine – has been attacked since the launch of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

What is the S-400 Triumph?

The Russian Armed Forces adopted the S-400 Triumph air defense system back in 2007. At the time, the system was described as an evolutionary continuation of its predecessor – the Soviet S-300 air defense system, but with improved combat capabilities and characteristics.

The structural characteristic of the S-300 has been preserved in the basic configuration of the S-400. The system includes a command-and-control center, a target detection radar, a multifunctional acquisition-tracking radar and up to 12 launchers.

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Each launcher contains four anti-aircraft missiles. The process of controlling and launching missiles is automated and is carried out under instructions from the command-and-control center. 

The manufacturer – Almaz-Antey Air and Space Defense Corporation – declares that the S-400 air defense system is designed to destroy strategic and tactical aircraft, as well as ballistic and cruise missiles, in conditions of electronic and other forms of countermeasures.

According to the Russian military, 70 percent of the outdated S-300 air defense systems have been replaced by the modern S-400, and a total of about 600 S-400 Triumph launchers have been produced.

The S-400 can utilize seven different types of anti-aircraft missiles. For example, the 40N6E – which entered service relatively recently in 2018 – is capable of hitting aerodynamic targets at a distance of up to 380 kilometers at an altitude of 30-35 kilometers. It can shoot down even ballistic missiles at a maximum distance of up to 60 kilometers.

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Meanwhile, the 9M96E and 9M96E2 missiles are designed to neutralize aircraft and tactical ballistic missiles at closer distances, with the possibility of shooting them down at extremely low altitudes. These missiles are much smaller than the 40N6E, so up to 16 can be housed.

It has become customary for the Russian forces to use long-range anti-aircraft missile systems for attack purposes. Unfortunately, air defense missiles hitting ground targets do not guide accurately, leading to more widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure and associated casualties. This has not stopped the Russians and such strikes continue, in particular in the sectors of Mykolaiv and Zaporizhzhia

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