Today, an oil depot caught fire in Belgorod, Russia, and the Russians are pissed.
Ukraine Stands Accused
"The emergency services went to the place of fire, measures are being taken to eliminate it", said Gladkov, the governor of the region in his Telegram channel. pic.twitter.com/ey7rC5ChSz
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) April 1, 2022
They have accused Ukraine of launching a raid against the facility on its soil Friday morning. The Russian regional governor stated that two Ukrainian helicopters attacked the facility, which is 20 miles across the border from Ukraine and most decidedly on Russian soil.
The video above, taken from the @nexta_tv Twitter feed, purportedly shows the facility ablaze.
This is the first accusation of any kind of airstrike undertaken by the Ukrainians on Russian territory since their neighbors launched war on them on February 24th.
Tons of Video Footage to Analyze
There are multiple moving images from what looks like a helicopter attack on the Russian facility for all intents and purposes. Streaks of bright lights fill the sky, followed by what appears to be a large explosion.
Videos of the incident show at least two helicopters that seem to be flying toward the Ukrainian border. Defense analysts say the craft appear to be Mi-24s, large attack helicopter gunships used by both sides in the conflict.
It’s impossible to tell from the video footage whether they are being piloted by Russian or Ukrainian forces.
Experts from Janes, a well-known defense intelligence provider, stated, “The helicopters were flying very low to avoid radar detection.”
Rocket parts were found on the ground near the impact site. Janes says they appear to be from 80 mm S-8 unguided rockets. Those rockets can be launched from Mi-24s and, unsurprisingly, are used by both sides.
Differing Opinions of Responsibility
Russia has a clear opinion on what happened. Regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said two Ukrainian military helicopters struck the depot around 6 am local time (4 am GMT) on Friday. He claims two depot employees were injured in the attacks.
Oleksiy Danilov, Ukraine’s top security official, has another take on the matter: “For some reason, they say that we did it, but according to our information, this does not correspond to reality.”
Ukrainian defense ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk would neither confirm nor deny a Ukrainian role in the attack.
So…is this a false flag operation planned by the Kremlin as an excuse to walk away from the negotiating table and further pound Ukrainian cities into the ground, or has Ukraine had enough and decided to give Russia a taste of its own medicine?
There are some things that point away from this being a false flag operation by the Russians. First, an attack on Russian soil is a humiliation for Russia which has been saying that it destroyed the Ukrainian air force. A strike like this demonstrates that this is false. It also showed that the Russian air force and their own ground defenses are woefully unprepared to defend their own country from attack.
Second, blowing up one of their own oil storage facilities which Russia needs to keep its own lights on and fule its own military vehicles puts a very expensive price tag on a false flag operation. It would have been more effective as propaganda for the supposed Russian helicopters to attack civilian areas and then blame it on Ukraine and accuse them of terrorism. The Russian aim would be to erode support from Ukraine’s Western allies who would be appalled at an attack on Russian civilians inside Russia. These allies wouldn’t be upset at all at Ukraine striking a legitimate military target in Russia. In fact, the US and NATO would have been instrumental in providing Ukraine the intelligence on the target being undefended and how to exploit gaps in Russia’s air defense radar systems.
One would expect a false flag operation by Russia on its own oil facility to have an immediate(and pre-planned) retaliatory response by them. So far, nothing.
Finally, Ukraine has kept pretty quiet about the attack and has not claimed responsibility or protested against Russian claims that it was their helicopters that attacked the facility.
The effects of this strike could be far-reaching. First, the attack is on Russian supply infrastructure which will make it harder for the Russians to supply fuel to their army and civilian population. It will also force the Russians to reposition aircraft and anti-aircraft guns and missiles to protect their own rear areas from further attack inside their own country, which means these assets cannot be used for offensive operations in Ukraine. In WWII, the United States attacked Japan with the Doolittle Raid, where just 16 Army Air Corps B-25 Mitchell bombers flown off the carrier USS Hornet attacked the Japanese mainland. The attack itself was of little tactical value and didn’t do much damage, but the psychological effect on Japan was enormous. They believed the US was incapable of striking at the home islands and in response, they had to reposition several hundred aircraft and naval assets to protect their home waters and air space which they desperately needed on the various fronts they were fighting on.
Time will tell. This is a developing story, and SOFREP will report back as more information is uncovered.