Ukraine explains strike on oil terminal in Crimea

Saturday’s drone attack on an oil terminal in Russia’s Crimea was part of Kiev’s preparations for its planned counteroffensive, Natalya Gumenyuk, the spokeswoman for the Ukrainian military’s southern command, has claimed.

An explosion rocked the key port of Sevastopol on Saturday morning as a UAV crashed into one of the fuel-storage facilities in the city. The blaze engulfed about a thousand square meters and destroyed four oil tanks, local authorities said. There were no fatalities or injuries as a result of the incident, they added.

Kiev has been saying for a long time that undermining the Russian military’s logistics was “one of the elements of preparation for powerful, active actions by the Defense Forces” of Ukraine, Gumenyuk said during a live TV appearance on Sunday.

Speaking about the previous day’s attack in Sevastopol, she claimed that “this work represents that preparation for a broad, large-scale offensive, which everybody is expecting.”

Crimea, which reunited with Russia in 2014 following a referendum held after the violent coup in Kiev that year, has been a frequent target of aerial and naval drone raids since the conflict erupted into open fighting in February last year. The Ukrainian military and the authorities in Kiev have usually been reluctant to take responsibility for the attacks, most of which have been repelled by Russian forces.

In an interview with Nordic media outlets on Friday, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said that the “counteroffensive will happen” and expressed hope that it’ll allow Kiev to “de-occupy” Crimea as well as Russia’s newly-incorporated territories: the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, and the Zaporozhye and Kherson Regions.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who serves at present as deputy head of the country’s Security Council, said that Zelensky’s claims were “delusional,” but warned that, nonetheless, they shouldn’t be discounted.

According to Medvedev, Russia should foil the counteroffensive by delivering “mass destruction of personnel and military equipment” and inflicting a “maximum military defeat” on the Ukrainian military. After that, the “Nazi regime in Kiev” must be “completely dismantled,” he added.

Earlier this week, Politico reported that Ukraine’s prime backer, the US, has been concerned that the impact of the much-hyped counteroffensive could fall short of expectations. Meanwhile, the New York Times warned that Western support for Kiev could weaken if the operation doesn’t bring “a decisive victory.”

Former Ukrainian defense minister Andrey Zagorodnyuk complained earlier this month that “the vast majority of Western politicians, analysts and journalists don’t see the liberation of Crimea as a realistic prospect” because significant Russian forces are situated there. Kiev should do more to persuade the US and its allies to support an attack on the peninsula, he insisted.

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