A combined Ukrainian strike with long-range kamikaze drones and modified anti-ship missiles hit an oil and fuel storage facility in the Russian port city of Kavkaz early on Friday, May 31 set at least three fuel reservoirs alight.

Both Russian and Ukrainian official sources confirmed the location of the attack, and the use of missiles and drones.

Ukraine’s General Staff took credit for the strike in a morning statement claiming that Neptune missiles fired by a “strike group” had hit the oil terminal in Russia’s Krasnodar Krai region. The Ukrainian news agency UNIAN, among others, reported a “massed drone attack” had accompanied the missiles.

The missiles used are a domestically modified version of the R-360 Neptune anti-ship missile, two of which were credited with the sinking of the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s flagship, the cruiser Moskva, on April 14, 2022. Ukraine first used the missile reconfigured to hit ground targets in August 2023.

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The independent Russian news agency Astra and the Ukrainian military correspondent Andriy Tsaplienko, among others, published images of a dockside blaze with flames reaching high above fuel reservoirs that were burning fiercely. According to unconfirmed reports on social media, some Ukrainian drones had also hit Russian air defense systems in the vicinity. Tsaplienko reported that all Neptune missiles had reached their targets and detonated.

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A statement by Veniamin Kontradtev, Governor of Russia’s Krasnodar region, said that firefighters had rated the blaze as “the most dangerous category” and that people had been injured in the attack.

A morning statement by Russia’s Defense Ministry said that 5 Neptune missiles and 29 Ukrainian drones had been shot down and that damage was minimal. All other sources overwhelmingly reported that the Ukrainian weapons had in fact hit their intended targets.

Overnight Ukrainian drones targeted other sites near the city of Novorossisk, Kontratev said, but again claimed that Russian air defenses had prevented them from causing damage or inflicting casualties. Some social media sites said a fuel refinery near the city was targeted.

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In January Kyiv launched a campaign to undermine Kremlin overseas earnings, interrupt supplies to its military, and to spike consumer prices inside Russia uding regular attacks on fuel refineries and storage sites. The strikes have reached deep into Russia and, according to international business news agencies, reduced Russian refined fuel production by 12-14 percent.

The last time Ukrainian planners had hit an oil processing facility along Russia’s south-western Black Sea shoreline was on July 17, when drones attacked a refinery in the city of Tuapse.

The night also saw Ukrainian strikes by long-range drones against an oil refinery in Kazan, some 1,200 kilometers from Ukraine. Local Russian officials claimed the attack caused no damage. Video and audio published on social media, purportedly recorded during the attack, documented the characteristic propeller buzz of drones and explosions. Some images showed a twin-boom drone flying at low speed over a forested village. No Russian air defense activity was observable, and a voiceover said it was a Ukrainian drone.

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In silhouette, the aircraft closely resembled the Lyutyy long-range drone produced by the Ukrainian arms conglomerate Ukroboronprom. The kamikaze strike drone was introduced in February 2022. According to the manufacturer, it carries a 75-kilo warhead to a target “more than 1,000 kilometers” distant.

The strike hitting the Port Kavkaz facility came less than 24 hours after Ukrainian forces used a combination of water-borne kamikaze drones, US-made ATACMS missiles, and aerial drones to hit Russian military port facilities in the seaside town of Chornomorsk overnight on 29-30 May, less than ten kilometers west of the port in Kavkaz

According to most reports that attack destroyed at least two, armed naval patrol vessels and one civilian ferry. Another five vessels including cutters, tugboats and a second ferry were damaged. Following the strike Russian officials claimed the Ukrainian weapons caused minimal damage to civilian watercraft and none to Russian military vessels. On Friday Russia’s Defense Minister Andrei Belousov doubled down on that narrative and claimed all the ATACMS were shot down.

Ground level images and subsequent satellite photographs, published before Belousov’s statement, seemed to confirm that the damage was in fact serious and that multiple vessels had been destroyed by hits from ATACMS missiles.

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Tsaplienko citing an unnamed Ukrainian senior officer said that, as a result of those strikes, the Kremlin can no longer move heavy military supplies from mainland Russia to the occupied Crimea peninsula, because all ferries linking the two sides of the Kerch Strait are now sunk or in need of months of repairs.

On Friday, an SBU statement claimed responsibility for the destruction of a key Nebo-SVU Russian air defense radar based in Crimea. It said SBU agents used drones to demolish the $100 million system designed to detect incoming aircraft and ballistic missiles at long range, as part of the operation against the ships in Chernomorsk port..

There was no direct confirmation of the SBU claim, however, satellite images made public following the strikes confirmed that ATACMS missiles Crimean officials had asserted were shot down, had in fact blasted wharf side facilities.

Ukraine’s national intelligence agency said the attacks were all part of a strategy to isolate Russian forces on the Crimean Peninsula. This began on Oct. 10, 2022, when an 18-wheeler truck loaded with explosives was detonated as it crossed the Kerch Bridge, cutting the road span and badly damaging an adjacent railway bridge. Although Russia repaired the roadway a year later both links are now too weak to carry heavy loads, SBU officials have said.

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