Ukraine's drone attacks on Russian oil refineries cause domestic petrol prices to surge

Ukraine's drone attacks on Russian oil refineries cause domestic petrol prices to surge
Some of the drones being used by Ukraine to attack Russian oil refineries.
By Ben Aris in Berlin May 1, 2024

Ukrainian drone strikes on Russian oil refineries are causing a shortage of petrol on the domestic markets and have sent prices at the pump surging in the last few weeks.

As reported by bne IntelliNews, while Russia has enough refining capacity beyond the reach of the escalating drone war to supply its military and industrial sector, the approximately 14% reported reduction in refining fuel has started to impact the supplies to consumers.

Russia launched an intense barrage against Ukraine’s power sector in March, and Kyiv has responded by increasingly targeting Russia’s oil refining capacity using new long-range drones.

Kyiv has also chosen to ignore a US request to stop hitting refineries, afraid of the effect it may have on the international price of petrol, and chose “military targets” instead. Kyiv is hoping to starve the Russian military of fuel in an effort to hamper its war effort.

Russian refineries are generally well protected from air attack as a legacy of the Cold War era, but nevertheless the damage drones do causes shutdowns and reduced production while the damage done is repaired.

Petrol prices soar

The oil refinery strikes are starting to cause shortages of petrol on the domestic market, Politico reports. Diesel prices in Russia have surged nearly 10% in the past week alone, according to state statistics, and the cost of petrol has reached a six-month high, climbing over 20% since the beginning of the year.

"Over a dozen oil refineries in nine Russian regions have been hit in similar ways this year, with officials in Kyiv declaring the industry a legitimate military target," Politico reported.

Moscow has also been forced to significantly scale back its fuel exports, which have fallen to near-historic lows. Just over 712,000 tonnes of diesel were shipped last week, a decline from over 844,000 tonnes during the same period in 2023, according to the state statistics.

The rising prices will have some political impact as Russian President Vladimir Putin has been careful to try and shield the population from any pain or disruption to daily life inside Russia. He has been careful to avoid a general call up, and the partial mobilisation last year was limited to remote regions and targeted ethnic minorities. At the same time, western goods that disappeared from shelves due to self-imposed sanctions have already reappeared as traders bring in the goods via friendly third countries. bne IntelliNews’ correspondent in Moscow found cans of coke and beer on the shelves from the US, UK and several other European countries last week.

Affordable fuel is a crucial component of the Russian shopping basket and a sharp rise in prices will cause some discontent, but not enough to cause anti-war protests yet. Patriotism is at an all-time high as most Russians are reluctantly backing the war now it has started. But rising gas prices will place additional pressure on the Russian government to maintain stability and control over its critical industries.

Latest attacks

In the latest attack, Ukrainian drones struck Russia's Ryazan and Voronezh oblasts overnight on May 1, causing a fire to break out at a Ryazan oil refinery, the oblasts' governors reported. An oil refinery in Ryazan Oblast was hit by drones during the night, causing a fire at the facility, according to the Russian Telegram news channel Astra.

Voronezh Oblast Governor Aleksandr Gusev also reported that Russian air defence units shot down a drone over the suburbs of Voronezh the same night. However, no casualties have been reported in either attack.

The Ryazan oil refinery belongs to state-owned oil giant Rosneft and refines around 5.8% of Russia’s total refined crude. It has been a regular target of Ukrainian attacks in recent months, according to Reuters. Ryazan is only 350 km from the Ukrainian border, but the new long-range drones can hit targets up to 1,200 km away and their range is steadily being increased.

Since the start of Ukraine’s campaign to target oil refineries in January there have been more than two dozen attacks, of which over half have been successful in striking their targets and doing varied amounts of damage. Conversely, Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s power infrastructure have been devastating.

Major oil infrastructure drone attacks YTD



Gazpromtrans railway in Nizhny Tagil in the  Sverdlovsk region

January 8

Oryolnefteprodukt in Oryol region

January 9

St Petersburg Oil Terminal

January 18

Klintsy oil depot in the Bryansk region

January 19

Ust-Luga near St Petersburg

January 21

Tuapse oil refinery in the Krasnodar region

January 21

Yaroslavl refinery in the Yaroslavl region

January 19

Volgogradneftepererabotka in the Volgograd region

February 3

Ilsky and Afipsky refineries in the Krasnodar region

February 9

Polyova oil depot in the Kursk region

February 14

NLMK steel works in Lipetsk Oblast

February 24

NORSI refinery in the Nizhny Novgorod region

March 12

Ryazan refinery in the Ryazan region

March 13

Rostov refinery in Rostov on Don

March 13

Nizhny Novgorod refinery in Nizhny Novgorod region

March 13

Syzran oil refinery
Novokuibyshiv oil refinery in the Samara Oblast

March 15

Slavyansk refinery, Nefte Peregonnyy Zavod in Slavyansk-on-Kuban in the Krasnodar Krai

March 17

Domodedova airport in Moscow

March 17

Novokuybyshevsk refinery in the Samara region

March 21

Kuybyshev NPZ refinery in the Samara region

March 21

Zaporizhzhia Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant in Ukaine

March 21

Thermal power plants in Kharkiv in Kharkiv Oblast in Ukraine

March 22

Kirishi refinery in the Leningrad Oblast

March 22

Kuibyshev oil refinery in the Samara region

March 23

President's Office denies statements that US asked to stop attacks on Russian refineries

March 22

Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant in the Zaporizhzhia, Ukrine

March 22

Rostov power plans in the Rostov Oblast

March 25

Nizhnekamsk refinery in Tatarstan

April 2

Taneco refinery in the Tatarstan region

April 2

Trypilska Thermal Power Plant in Kyiv Ukraine

April 11

Kardym district oil depo in the Smolensk region

April 20

Razdorovo oil depo in Yartsevo in the Smolensk region

April 24

Naftovyki industrial zone in Omsk region

April 25

Krasnodar Krai oil refinery in Slavyansk-on-Kuban and Ilsky oil refineriey

April 27

Ryaza refinery in Ryzan region

May 1

source: reports, bne IntelliNews