Early this morning, flames lit up the sky over Russia as two oil storage facilities fueling Putin’s soldiers fighting for control of Donbas were blown up by suspected Ukrainian missile attacks. The Transneft-Druzhba Oil Depot in Bryansk, some 70 miles from the Ukrainian border, caught fire around 2 a.m. local time, before a second fire broke out 15 minutes later at a neighbouring military installation, according to Russian state media. The sound of an incoming missile was captured on video as one of the fires erupted, followed by a big explosion and blaze. The Druzhba pipeline is one of the key routes for Russian oil to reach Europe, and Bryansk serves as a logistics hub for Russian soldiers fighting Ukraine in Donbas.
Despite Ukraine inflicting a’substantial cost’ on Putin’s forces, British intelligence said Russia has ‘yet to accomplish a meaningful breakthrough’ of defensive lines in Donbas. Russia’s advances are being hampered by weak logistical and combat support, according to the UK Ministry of Defence, much as they were in the unsuccessful attempt to seize Kyiv.
The MoD said that Ukrainian soldiers holed up in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, which is currently under siege, were also pinning down’many Russian units’ and preventing them from redeploying to the Donbas front, as well as depleting Putin’s troops and diminishing their combat efficiency.
Russia’s war on Ukraine, which was supposed to last only a few days and finish with the overthrow of the country’s pro-Western government, is now in its third month, with Kyiv claiming to have killed nearly 22,000 Russian soldiers and destroyed military equipment worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Putin’s army has suffered a number of humiliating defeats during that time, most notably the Moskva missile cruiser, which is believed to have been destroyed by Ukrainian rockets. The Kremlin’s apparent inability to prevent Ukraine from firing missiles at targets within Russia is undoubtedly producing red faces. Railway lines, oil facilities, and military outposts in Belgorod, a Russian logistical hub near the Ukrainian border, have all been attacked in recent weeks, including by low-flying helicopters. Klimovo, a settlement in the Bryansk region with a close military base, was also hit.
According to Rob Lee, a respected military analyst, the strike on Bryansk itself might have been carried out with Tochka-U ballistic missiles fired from within Ukraine, capable of striking both the oil plant and the neighbouring military post. The explosions caused no casualties, according to Russian emergency services, and no evacuations were required because the fires posed no threat to surrounding residential buildings.
As the sun rose in Bryansk, images from the early morning hours revealed that the fires were still raging. Around 10 a.m. local time, 158 firefighters and 51 trucks were still battling the wildfire. The Kremlin announced that an investigation into the cause of the fire will be initiated, though it is unlikely to blame Ukraine because doing so would confirm Kyiv’s ability to successfully assault military sites within Russia.
As Russia‘s fires blazed, the US pledged greater military aid to Ukraine to ensure that it ‘can win this struggle,’ after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin led the highest-profile American delegation to visit President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv since the conflict began. According to Blinken and Austin, the US has approved a $165 million ammunition sale as well as more than $300 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine’s war effort.
‘The policy we’ve implemented – huge assistance for Ukraine, massive pressure on Russia, and solidarity with more than 30 countries involved in these efforts – is producing genuine effects,’ Blinken told reporters in Poland the day after meeting with Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials. ‘Russia is failing to achieve its war objectives. Ukraine is making progress. Russia’s primary goal has been to completely subdue Ukraine, robbing it of its sovereignty and independence. That hasn’t worked out.’
In the meeting, Zelenskyy expressed his gratitude for American assistance, praising President Joe Biden in particular for his “personal support.” ‘In terms of our army’s strength and help in particular places, the priorities are weaponry and support from the United States of America and our partners, European leaders,’ the Ukrainian president added. ‘The second concern is the Russian Federation’s sanctions policy as a result of the full-scale invasion and terror they have perpetrated in Ukraine.’
The three-hour meeting took place on the 60th day since the invasion began, as Ukraine pressed the West for more powerful weapons to counter Russia’s campaign in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, where Moscow’s forces were attempting to dislodge the last Ukrainian troops in the battered port city of Mariupol.