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Washington Post: US request not to target Russian oil refineries 'irritated' Zelensky

by Kateryna Hodunova and The Kyiv Independent news desk April 15, 2024 8:19 PM 3 min read
Illustrative photo of the Lukoil-Nizhegorodnefteorgsintez oil refinery, operated by OAO Lukoil, in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. (Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris called on President Volodymyr Zelensky not to attack Russian oil refineries during their private meeting at the Munich Security Conference in February, the Washington Post reported on April 15, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

Ukrainian strikes would raise global energy prices and invite more aggressive Russian retaliation inside Ukraine, according to Harris.

Harris' request irritated Zelensky, who "brushed off" the recommendation, the Washington Post reported.

After the Munich Security Conference, Ukrainian forces launched a series of drone strikes aimed at damaging Russia's oil industry. A total of 12 Russian oil refineries were reportedly successfully hit in multiple regions deep inside Russian territory as of March 17.

Ukraine also attacked one of Russia's largest oil refineries on April 2 in the city of Nizhnekamsk in Tatarstan, over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from Ukraine's border.

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Zelensky neglected Harris's recommendation, as the president was uncertain whether it reflected the consensus position of the Biden administration, the Washington Post said, referring to its sources.

In subsequent weeks after the conference, Washington conducted multiple conversations, warning Kyiv. Yet, Ukrainian forces hit Russian oil refineries several times in March and April, which led to them shutting down about 14% of their capacity in the first quarter, according to Reuters calculations.

The Washington Post also reported, citing officials on condition of anonymity, that keeping global energy markets supplied to help cool inflation is "a priority for the administration, but it is also vital to sustain the support of Ukraine's war effort in Europe."

"An increase in energy prices risks dampening European support for Ukraine aid," a senior U.S. official told the Washington Post.

While the dispute over Ukrainian attacks on Russian oil refineries continues, Russia has been able to swiftly repair oil refineries hit by Ukrainian drones, Reuters said on April 15.

According to Reuters calculations, the total Russian primary oil refining capacity, idled by drones, was reduced to 90,500 metric tons per day (660,000 barrels per day) from around 123,800 tons per day (907,000 bpd) previously.

But Russia's cumulative primary oil refining capacity, put offline due to various outages and maintenances, is expected to reach 4.4 million tons in April, up from 4.1 million tons in March, Reuters reported.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on April 2 the U.S. has "neither supported nor enabled strikes by Ukraine outside of its territory," responding to a question from a journalist about the Ukrainian strikes on Russian oil refineries.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin later echoed Blinken's statement, saying that recent Ukrainian attacks targeting Russian oil refineries could have a "knock-on effect" on the global energy market.

In response to the U.S. warnings, Zelensky said in an interview with the Washington Post on March 30 that Ukraine has the right to use its own weapons with retaliatory strikes on Russian oil refineries, despite concerns from the United States.

Russia’s war effort may not be as formidable as it looks
Russia’s war machine has shown remarkable stamina despite the hundreds of thousands of troops it is estimated to have lost in Ukraine. But under the hood, it may be less resilient than it looks. With its high oil export revenues, Russia has been able to replace its losses and

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