The fire at a Russian gas production platform in the Black Sea was so big two days after it was hit by a Ukrainian missile that it showed up like a bright white spot in images taken by a NASA satellite that monitors wildfires.
About 70 kilometers from Crimea annexed by Russia, the drilling rig was hit at 8:37 a.m. Mondayaccording to Russian officials.
One of three gas production platforms targeted simultaneously by Ukraine, the attack resulted in serious injuries to Three oil workers and seven others were missing.
Crimean Senator Olga Kovitidi said that the pipelines of the platforms were drained to minimize the risk of fire and that the production of the gas field of Odessa was suspended.
The successful Ukrainian strike has again exposed Russia’s vulnerabilities in the Black Sea after a series of high-profile naval reversals, including the sinking in April of Moskva, Russia’s Black Sea flagship.
Damage to production platforms – the first time offshore energy infrastructure has been targeted during fighting in Ukraine – has also raised doubts about the Kremlin’s ability to continue oil and gas production in the region.
“As long as he is part of the [Black Sea] the coast remains in Ukrainian hands, the sea remains a contested space for Russia,” said naval expert Alessio Patalano of King’s College London.
The rigs were a legitimate target as they were used by the Russian military, according to Sergiy Bratchuk from the Odessa regional military administration.
“On these towers, Russia had organized small garrisons and stored equipment for air defense, radar warfare and reconnaissance,” Bratchuk said in an online briefing on Tuesday.
Despite the lack of a Ukrainian fleet, Kyiv’s military has used its arsenal of missiles – some made in the West – to pressure the Russian navy as it tries to continue operations near Ukraine’s coast.
Fighting was particularly fierce around Snake Island in the Danube Delta, with satellites photographs released on Wednesday appearing to show further damage to buildings.
Ukraine said earlier this week that it had carried out strikes on the Russian-controlled island, located about 70 kilometers west of the damaged gas production platforms.
Besides the Moskva, which sank after being the target of a missile attack by the Ukrainian armed forces, at least 9 other Russian ships have been destroyed in the Black Sea since the start of the war, according to Oryx, an intelligence service Blog which tracks Russia’s military casualties using open source analytics.
Russian officials condemned Monday’s attack.
“This is a terrorist act,” Georgy Muradov, deputy chairman of the Crimean Council of Ministers, told state news agency RIA Novosti. reported.
The damaged gas production platforms belong to the Crimean-based energy company Chernomorneftogaz, which extracts a total of about 1 billion cubic meters of gas per year, according to Igor Yushkov, analyst at the Russian National Energy Security Fund.
But experts said there are unlikely to be any consequences in terms of the Crimean peninsula’s energy supply.
“Mining in Crimea by illegally appropriated Chernomorneftegaz has decreased in recent years [anyway]“said Maria Shagina, an expert on international sanctions and energy at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.
The three damaged offshore platforms, known as the Boyko Towers after a former Ukrainian energy minister, were seized from Ukraine by Russia in 2014 after Moscow annexed Crimea. They were then floated from the Odessa Plateau gas field into Crimean waters.
“Russia was surprised again,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a Russian security researcher at the Virginia-based think tank CNA, said of the attacks.
“[They] will know that they cannot operate in the region as they did before.
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