Drone Strikes Near Russia’s Oil and Natural-Gas Facilities: Who is Behind the Attack?

On Monday evening, multiple drone strikes occurred across Russia in what is believed to be one of the most extensive air attacks on the country in the past year.[0] While there is no concrete evidence of coordination among the incidents, the pattern of military drones crashing near Russia’s oil and natural-gas facilities has led many to speculate about Ukraine’s involvement. A suspected Ukrainian combat drone was one of the drones downed, and photos of the wreckage near a gas facility southeast of Moscow suggest it was Ukrainian-made.[0]

The Russian Ministry of Defense claims Ukraine attempted two drone strikes overnight, and Russia’s airspace over St. Petersburg was closed on Tuesday from around 10:40 a.m. to 11:50 a.m., Moscow time, due to an “unidentified object” allegedly sighted in the vicinity.[1] Fighter jets were also reportedly scrambled.[2]

The target of the drone in Kolomna was believed to be a civilian infrastructure facility, but no damage or casualties were reported.[2] Images show the drone to be a UJ-22 Airborne, a strike UAV manufactured by Ukrjet, a Ukrainian company based in Kyiv.[3] Ukraine has not publicly claimed responsibility for the attack.[0]

Russia’s Defense Ministry claims its forces had downed two Ukrainian drones in southern Russia and that their fighter jets were involved in a training exercise in the country's western airspace on Tuesday.[1]

Meanwhile, Ukraine reported that its military shot down 11 out of 14 Iranian-made Shahed drones late Sunday and early Monday, including all nine that were aimed at the capital city of Kyiv.[4] The remaining three drones hit targets in the central city of Khmelnytskyi, with explosions there killing two rescue workers and injuring three other people, according to the local government.[4]

No matter who filmed the video, where it was filmed, and its intended audience, there is no proof to show that the people being attacked were civilians.[5] The authorities in Kyiv declared that nine drones had been brought down in the city without any resulting casualties.[6]

The pattern of drone strikes near Russia’s oil and natural-gas facilities, and the relative proximity of the attempted strike to the Russian capital, raise questions about the intentions of those launching the attacks and the ultimate target.

0. “Russia says military drone attempted to strike gas facility near Moscow” The Guardian, 28 Feb. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/feb/28/russia-military-drone-attempted-strike-gas-facility-moscow-uav-ukraine

1. “Drones and closed airspace” Meduza, 28 Feb. 2023, https://meduza.io/en/feature/2023/02/28/drones-and-closed-airspace

2. “Drone crashes near gas plant close to Kremlin – Russia points finger at Ukraine for attack” Express, 28 Feb. 2023, https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1740476/drone-crash-russia-ukraine-war-gazprom-Kolomna-putin

3. “Ukrainian combat drone crashes near Moscow | News” The Times, 28 Feb. 2023, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ukrainian-combat-drone-crashes-near-moscow-z9w7jxslt

4. “Russia Launches New Wave of Iranian-Made Drones Against Ukraine” The Wall Street Journal, 28 Feb. 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-launches-new-wave-of-iranian-made-drones-against-ukraine-ba637bd1

5. “Fact Check: Does Video Show Ukraine Drone Dropping Grenades on Civilians?” msnNOW, 28 Feb. 2023, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/fact-check-does-video-show-ukraine-drone-dropping-grenades-on-civilians/ar-AA181Kh0

6. “One reported dead after Russia carries out drone attacks in multiple Ukrainian regions” Meduza, 27 Feb. 2023, https://meduza.io/en/news/2023/02/27/one-reported-dead-after-russia-carries-out-drone-attacks-in-multiple-ukrainian-regions