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Russia oil depot hit by Ukrainian drone in flames as Ukraine steps up attacks ahead of war's 2-year mark

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A Ukrainian drone struck an oil storage depot in western Russia on Friday, causing a massive blaze, officials said, as Kyiv's forces apparently extended their attacks on Russian soil ahead of the war's two-year anniversary. Four oil reservoirs with a total capacity of 1.6 million gallons were set on fire when the drone reached Klintsy, a city of some 70,000 people located about 40 miles from the Ukrainian border, according to the local governor and state news agency Tass.

The strike apparently was the latest in a recently intensified effort by Ukraine to unnerve Russians and undermine President Vladimir Putin's claim that life in Russia is going on as normal before its March 17 presidential election.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has vowed to hit more targets inside Russian border regions this year. Russia's air defenses are concentrated in occupied regions of Ukraine, Kyiv officials say, leaving more distant targets inside Russia more vulnerable as Ukrainian forces develop longer-range drones.

Firefighters extinguish oil tanks at a storage facility in Klintsy
Firefighters extinguish oil tanks at a storage facility that local authorities say caught fire after the military brought down a Ukrainian drone, in the town of Klintsy in the Bryansk Region, Russia, Jan. 19, 2024. Russian Emergencies Ministry/Handout/REUTERS

The Russian city of Belgorod, also near the Ukrainian border, canceled its traditional Orthodox Epiphany festivities on Friday due to the threat of Ukrainian drone strikes. It was the first time major public events were known to have been called off in Russia due to the drone threat.

Ukrainian national media, quoting an official in Ukraine's Intelligence Service, said Ukrainian drones on Friday also attacked a gunpowder mill in Tambov, about 370 miles south of Moscow.

But Tambov Gov. Maxim Yegorov said the plant was working normally, according to Russia's RBC news outlet. The Mash news outlet had earlier reported that a Ukrainian drone fell on the plant's premises Thursday but caused no damage.

In another strike fitting the pattern, the Russian Defense Ministry said a Ukrainian drone was downed on the outskirts of St. Petersburg on Thursday.

The drone wreckage fell on the premises of the St. Petersburg Oil Terminal on the city's southern edge, according to Vladimir Rogov, who is in charge of coordination of the Russian-annexed regions of Ukraine. Mikhail Skigin, the terminal co-owner, confirmed that the drone was targeting the terminal.

St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city, is about 560 miles north of the border with Ukraine.

Russia Ukraine
In this photo taken from video released by Governor of Bryansk Region Alexander Bogomaz on the Telegram messaging app on Jan. 19, 2024, oil reservoirs are seen on fire after a Ukrainian drone reached Klintsy, a city in Bryansk Region of Russia. Governor of Bryansk Region Alexander Bogomaz/Telegram/AP

In Klintsy, air defenses electronically jammed the drone but it dropped its explosive payload on the facility, Bryansk regional Gov. Alexander Bogomaz said. There were no casualties, he added.

Russian telegram channels shared videos of what they said was the blaze at the depot, which sent thick black plumes of smoke into the air. The fire is hard to put out and requires specialist equipment, Bogomaz said, adding that 32 people were evacuated from homes near the depot.

The same depot was struck by a Ukrainian drone in May last year, but the damage apparently was less significant.

Meanwhile, Russian shelling in Ukraine's northeastern Kharkiv region killed a 57-year-old woman and a land mine there killed a man, the Ukrainian president's office reported Friday.

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