Various accounts of the Ukrainian Armed Forces allegedly attacking an oil depot located in Belgorod, Russia, had surfaced on social media, complete with photographs and video evidence. The city is said to be 18 miles from the border of Ukraine, making it a prime target for a counter-offensive.
It’s important to note that the incident is not claimed by Ukraine and cannot be verified by SOFREP and other media outlets as war is really vulnerable to propaganda and false-flag attacks. With this being said, we’re prepared to give you any updates when more information arises.
Russian officials from Belgorod reported that a pair of Ukrainian Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters crossed into Russia and struck an oil depot and other buildings, destroying various infrastructure in the industrial center of the city. The alleged attack happened pre-dawn, with the helicopters flying at low altitudes to avoid detection by Russian radars. A video on Twitter puts the attack date at 04/01/2022 at around 5:43 AM, with the helicopters all blacked out, launching rockets to the oil facility. The oil depot was said to be owned by the Russian oil firm Rosneft.
— ELINT News (@ELINTNews) April 1, 2022
In Russia's Belgorod, a fire broke out at an oil depot, two workers were injured – region's authorities.
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) April 1, 2022
As reported by Russian state news RIA Novosti, eight tanks with a volume of 2,000 cubic meters are on fire, with the fire potentially spreading to other tanks. Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said that “The fire at the oil depot happened as a result of an airstrike of two helicopters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine that entered the territory of Russia at low altitude.” He also reported that two people were injured as a result of the attack, with their locality trying to control the fire.
If determined to be true, this would be the first major counter-offensive the Ukrainians have launched on Russian soil, which would indicate that they are very much capable of striking Russian infrastructure on their territory. It is also the riskiest move they could make as Belgorod is deep into Russian territory. More so, since the peace talks are ongoing, it could jeopardize any progress made if proven true. It is also the first strike by a manned aircraft against Russia since the Korean War.
While it is impressive if the Ukrainians really did pull off the counter-attack, this is exactly why it is completely reasonable to question the legitimacy of the counter-offensive. While the Ukrainians can launch counter-offensives against Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been very vocal about settling the war and entertained the possibility of no longer joining NATO and becoming a neutral country.
“Security guarantees and neutrality, the non-nuclear status of our state. We are ready to go for it. This is the most important point,” Zelensky said during a 90-minute video call. According to him, it was Ukraine’s main goal to end the war as quickly as possible to avoid any more deaths. However, he said that the neutrality clause was only on the table if he could discuss it face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Furthermore, it was also reported that the Russia-Ukraine peace talks have been making slow progress in Turkey, with the Russian delegation saying that they would ease (not stop) their military operations in Northern Ukraine. Though, this was later proven to be somewhat of a lie as they had bombed the city of Chernihiv a day after. Western leaders were skeptical of the announcement from the very beginning. They alleged that the Russian forces might just be taking this opportunity to resupply in Belarus and launch an offensive in Donbas to “completely liberate” it. The Kremlin claimed this to be the real goal of the so-called military operation.
Oil depot caught fire in Belgorod, Russia pic.twitter.com/R9S6SYJ2pN
— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) April 1, 2022
It can also be the case that Russia is just using an old trick up its sleeve, using false-flag attacks to shape the narrative of the invasion as it has done with its previous operations. This would also be possible as the Russians claimed in early March that they had practically destroyed Ukraine’s Air Force, leaving a few aircraft to be used. Chief Spokesman for the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation Igor Konashenkov said that they destroyed over 2,200 military infrastructure targets in Ukraine but did not detail what was destroyed. Specifically, the Ukrainians did have around 34 units of the Mi-24 before the invasion, some of which could have survived Russian airstrikes; this, in effect, makes an attack hypothetically possible as they would have helicopters at their disposal.
If it were the case that the Ukrainians actually did launch this attack, then it does not look good on Russia as a pair of not-so-modern Mi-24s infiltrated their airspace unscathed. More so, making its way from a heavily militarized war zone to a heavily militarized area in Belgorod. Is it too good to be true that Russia’s air defense systems (both long-range and short-range) were not able to detect two Mi-24s headed their way? More so, Russians in Ukraine were also not able to determine or spot these helicopters headed for their borders too with their radars? It’s plausible, considering their communication systems in Ukraine were already malfunctioning. It may be the case that their radars might not have been working too, but this would be very unlikely. However, to the Ukrainian’s benefit, they have the experience of flying low and fast to avoid detection, as they have done these kinds of flying for years in the Donbas region.
Regardless, if determined that the Ukrainians really did launch this attack, then the Russian forces have reason to fall back (unlikely) as it may be foreshadowing what could happen to them if they anger the Ukrainians more — that underestimating the outgunned underdog was not the best decision they could make.
Was it a large success? While they did hit their targets, one oil facility destroyed does not really kill the entire war as Russia has many oil depots where it could obtain the oil. It is, however, a strategic win as Belgorod can provide the oil their military needs as it is one of the closest ones to Ukraine. It was reported by Reuters that the attack would not affect the region’s fuel supplies and prices, according to a statement by Russian Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov.
It is also a symbolic win for the Ukrainians as well. It would be a superior boost to morale to fight more and get the Russians out of their territory. It shows that the “little guy” can fight the far larger guy in a fistfight. In simpler terms, it could give Russia a taste of its own medicine. More so, flying that deep into enemy territory shows a lot of raw guts no matter how confident you are with your skills and may just give Ukrainians a far larger morale increase against the demotivated Russian forces.
As of writing, Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that he could neither confirm nor deny the attack on the oil depots.