In its most ambitious massed drone raid in months, swarms of Ukrainian kamikaze UAV struck Russian-controlled territory overnight. The heaviest blows targeted military bases and energy infrastructure in Russia’s southwestern Krasnodar Krai region as dozens more of Ukraine’s drones hit air defenses in Crimea or penetrated hundreds of kilometers into mainland Russia.

Russian air and sea defenses were unable to completely bring down the waves of incoming unmanned aircraft, with both official and social media reporting heavy fires, damage, and casualties at multiple locations.

Overall, on the night June 20-21, 70 Ukrainian drones attacked targets on the Crimean Peninsula, while another 43 attacked targets in Russia’s southwestern Krasnodar Krai region, with at least two drones flying hitting a Volgograd oil refinery, hundreds of kilometers to the east. As usual, Russian officials said all of the aerial targets were shot down.

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Mikhail Razvozhaev, governor of Russian-occupied Crimea, publicly stated in the early morning hours of Friday that there was no substantial damage as practically all Ukrainian weapons were destroyed before hitting their targets.

Razvozhaev said “a massive attack...carried out by the criminal Kyiv regime” hit a heating plant near a bus station outside the city of Krasnodar, and an administrative building in an oil refinery nearby.

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A Russian defense command statement issued hours later said four people were injured in the Krasnodar attack and that debris from a falling Ukrainian drone ignited a grass fire on the premises of the Ilsk oil refinery, which was quickly put out.

Satellite image published by the pro-Ukrainian military information platform Krymsy Veter showing damage from a drone strike against the Yeisk airfield in the Russia-occupied Crimea peninsula, with grids. Other overnight reports confirmed heavy fires burning at the location. By doctrine, the Russian Air Force’s top priority for air defenses is military airfields.

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Other official claimed that six Ukrainian unmanned surface vessels, sea drones, had been destroyed by local air forces as they approached Russia’s western Black Sea coast.

Russian social media, Ukrainian milbloggers and Kyiv official sources widely contradicted the official Russian narrative that Ukrainian strikes were ineffective.

According to a late Friday morning statement by Ukraine’s Armed Forces, kamikaze drones had struck five oil refineries in southwest Russia, as well as air defense early-warning systems in Russia’s central Bryansk region and Crimea.

It said that the attacks were generally successful but the overall extent of damage caused was not yet clear, but confirmed that there had been five effective hits on the Enemskiy oil refinery in Russia’s southwestern Adygea region.

A military facility in western Russia that had been used for more than a year to store Iranian Shahed drones which attacked Ukrainian homes and businesses was hit and damaged, as was a facility used by Iranian instructors to train Russian operators, the statement said.

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Official Russian sources confirmed that three of the oil refineries named as having been targeted by the Ukrainian military were attacked. According to Western news reports, Ukraine’s drone campaign to degrade Russian fuel had led to disruption of production by at least 15 percent of Russian capacity by early April.

Kyiv Post screen grab of Russian social media video geo-located to the vicinity of the Yeisk military airfield following late-night explosions on June 20. Kremlin officials and mil-bloggers said Ukrainian drones shot down by Russian air defenses and the only damage was a grass fire. All other evidence contradicted that claim and pointed to substantial damage to an airfield headquarters building, and possibly power grid infrastructure.

 

Local news platforms and social media in Crimea reported furious shooting by local air defenses at Ukrainian drones flying west to east in waves on Friday. Firing from anti-aircraft cannon and missiles were reported in the vicinity of major Russian air defense facilities in Cape Tarkhankut, Evpatoria, Saki airfield and the port of Sevastopol.

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Russian milbloggers on Friday morning reported that a Russian Ka-29 search-and-rescue helicopter flying close to where Ukrainian drones were seen was shot down near the Crimean resort village of Anapa, killing all aboard. Unconfirmed sources said four crew died following an accidental launch and impact of a Pantsir anti-aircraft missile.

According to some accounts, almost 150 Ukrainian drones were launched overnight on 20-21 June, many from Ukraine’s western Kherson and Odesa regions, flying almost the entire length of the Black Sea before hitting targets in Crimea and west Russia.

In Krasnodar region, multiple aircraft struck and damaged Yeysk military airfield, the Afip oil refinery, the Ilynsky oil refinery and the Yablonsky oil refinery, local reports said.

At least two long-range drones struck a Lukoil refinery in the Volgograd region some 350 kilometers east of Ukraine’s border and close to 600 kilometers away from likely Ukrainian launch sites, some accounts said.   

 A Kyiv Post review of available evidence including geo-located video, satellite images, local social media comment and Ukrainian official statements contradicted claims by Russian officials that minimal damage had been caused.

There is evidence that, at Yeysk airfield, Ukranian drones struck a headquarters building and possiblepower grid infrastructure, setting fires. Images of blazes with characteristic heavy flames and billowing black smoke pointed to additional effective drone hits at the Afip, Ilynsky and Yablonsky oil refineries.

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If confirmed the Ukrainian overnight June 20-21 attacks would mark Kyiv’s single most successful massed kamikaze drone raid of the war, and along with it, an almost-unprecedented failure of Russia’s once-fearsome air defense network in the Black Sea region. 

Since early 2024 Ukraine has of late slowly but relentlessly increased the pace and scale of drone attacks against Russian targets, clearly prioritizing Russian oil processing infrastructure, and Russian air defense systems in Crimea and western Russia.

On June 18 Ukrainian drones hit an oil refinery in the port city of Azov in the Rostov region, fires that were still burning on June 21.

In mid-May Ukrainian forces, following the long-awaited delivery of powerful US ATACMS missiles, kicked off a campaign to damage and destroy Russian air defenses in Crimea and western Russia, targeting longstanding S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft missile positions across the peninsula, supposedly according to the Kremlin the world’s best air defense systems.

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On June 10 Ukrainian drones and missiles hit six air defense sites across Crimea. On June 12 Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukraine’s HUR military intelligence agency, told local media that Russian forces had suffered such substantial air defense equipment losses in Crimea, that Russia was transferring its only S-500 air defense system in a bid to control air space in the region.

Ukrainian Army General Staff statement on Friday said drone strikes would continue.

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