Crude oil prices jumped this week after Ukrainian UAVs again struck multiple Russian oil refining facilities, as Kyiv continues its long-range effort to limit Russian mobility in the Black Sea and the occupied territories of Ukraine.

The most recent wave of Ukrainian drone attacks targeted key facilities in Ryazan to the southeast of Moscow, the Rostov region close to the Ukrainian border, Nizhny Novgorod almost 300 miles east of the capital, the city of Kirshi close to St. Petersburg, and Pervyy Zavod some 100 miles southwest of Moscow.

Russia’s oil industry has proved resilient through two years of war, the proceeds from exports—much of which is now going to China and India at discounted prices—have helped fund Moscow’s invasion. Western price caps and sanctions have failed to stop Russian crude, much to Kyiv’s chagrin. Ukraine now appears to be taking the matter into its own hands.

The strategic importance of this week’s targets is significant. The NORSI refinery close to Nizhny Novgorod is owned by Lukoil and refines some 15.8 million tons of Russian crude annually, equivalent to around 317,000 barrels per day. This represents nearly 6 percent of the national total, Reuters reported citing industry sources.

The facility also produced some 4.9 million tons of gasoline—11 percent of Russia’s total output, 6.4 percent of its diesel fuel, 5.6 percent of fuel oil, and 7.4 percent of the country’s aviation fuel. At least half of the refinery’s production was halted by the March 12 drone attack, Reuters said.

In Kirishi, local authorities claimed that a Ukrainian drone was downed before it could cause any damage. The refinery there is one of the top two in Russia, processing around 17.7 million tons annually, or 355,000 barrels per day; 6.4 percent of the total.

Bloomberg reported that the refineries forced to stop operations this week are collectively responsible for 12 percent of Russia’s national oil refining capacity.

The spread of the targets speaks to Ukraine’s success in breaking through Russia’s air defense umbrella—though its anti-air teams have often been the subjects of mockery since February 2022—and to the variation in UAV platforms used in its long-range strike campaign.

Last month, Kyiv’s “drone czar,” Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov told Reuters that Ukraine is producing thousands of drones capable of hitting targets at “300, 500, 700, and 1,000 kilometers.”

The country’s UAV developers are already working on a vehicle that can fly 2,500 kilometers and have plans for platforms that can exceed 3,000 kilometers. Last summer, Fedorov told Newsweek that Ukraine “is on its way to become a world leader in drones production.”

Such advances would theoretically put major refining facilities as far away as Omsk and Tobolsk—both in the Siberia region east of the Ural Mountains—within range.

Ukraine’s drone strike campaign has this year hit facilities collectively accounting for 25 percent of Russia’s total refining capacity of 6.8 million barrels per day, CNBC reported this week, citing Andy Lipow, the president of Lipow Oil Associates. Around 50 percent of Russia’s refining capacity is within range of Kyiv’s UAV’s, Lipow told the agency.

Sergey Vakulenko of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center wrote in January that the unfolding Ukrainian campaign appears to have 18 Russian refineries—with a combined capacity of 3.5 million barrels per day, more than half the Russian total—within range.

Moscow, Vakulenko added, will need to ways to quickly repair its damaged facilities—as did Kyiv during Russia’s strike campaign against energy targets—at a time when it is under punishing sanctions.

“On the one hand, there’s no doubt that Russia has a much larger industrial base than Ukraine, which means there are more opportunities to source parts domestically,” Vakulenko wrote. “On the other hand, Russia is more isolated from international markets than Ukraine.

“If we are seeing the beginning of a wave of attacks on western Russia’s oil refineries, the consequences will be serious. Either way, Russia’s reserves of resilience and ingenuity look set to be severely tested.”

Ukrainian soldier carrying drone November 2023
A Ukrainian serviceman carries a drone during an anti-drone drill in Chernihiv region on November 11, 2023. Kyiv has developed a range of home-grown UAVs it is using to strike strategic targets deep inside Russia.