Ukraine rejects claims of Western pressure over attacks on Russian oil facilities

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Ukraine has rejected claims that a series of strikes on Russian oil refineries risks alienating its Western allies, with senior officials in Kyiv insisting the country is well within its rights to target Moscow’s lucrative fossil fuels industry.

Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the office of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said the government has not received calls from the United States asking Ukraine to halt attacks on Russian energy infrastructure.

Podolyak’s comments, forwarded to POLITICO by the office of Ukraine Energy Minister German Galushchenko, were in contrast to earlier reports by the Financial Times that the U.S. had urged the Eastern European nation to refrain from attacks on major energy infrastructure for fear of sending oil prices skyrocketing and prompting retaliation from the Kremlin.

Podolyak in comments first published by RBC-Ukraine called the report of U.S. criticism of the attacks “fake information” and said “Ukraine will destroy fuel infrastructure” in Russia.

A State Department spokesperson declined to comment.

A White House official declined to comment on whether they asked Ukraine to halt attacks on energy-related infrastructure over fears of effects on fuel prices.

"We have long said that we do not encourage or enable attacks inside of Russia," an administration official not authorized to speak on the record said in response to a request for comment. "What we are doing is helping Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression."

Speaking to POLITICO, Galushchenko reiterated that Ukraine attacks on Russian energy infrastructure remain “fair” given Moscow’s targeting of Ukraine, though he also said military plans were not his “sphere.” His comments came after Russia launched one of its biggest attacks in its two-year war against Ukraine, knocking out electricity infrastructure estimated to have left more than a million Ukranians without power.

Galushchenko added that his counterparts in other European energy ministries have not yet complained that Ukraine’s targeting of Russian oil infrastructure is roiling energy markets.

“I have a lot of contact with ministers of energy in Europe, and I’ve never heard these [types of] messages,” Galushchenko said.

Oleg Ustenko, a senior economic adviser to Zelenskyy, also hit out at claims that Ukraine’s covert military strategy was undermining the stability of global trade.

“All these ‘accidents’ in Russian refineries don’t mean Russia isn’t able to continue their exports of oil,” he said. “If the refineries are stopped, there will be more supply of unrefined oil to the international market. If the Russians aren’t able to refine their oil domestically, it means they won’t be able to receive enough cash — and that’s all they care about because they have to continue this war.”

But Ustenko argued if Western sanctions were better enforced and effective in ensuring Moscow earned less from its energy exports, the refineries would be unlikely to be such an important target.

The amount of oil refined in Russia hit a 10-month low this week amid a spate of drone attacks on major processing facilities deep inside the country.

”Our goal is to take away our enemy’s resources and decrease the flow of oil money and fuel Russia is using directly on the war,”a Ukrainian military source told CNN.

“It is having an effect because it’s destroying oil infrastructure and other critical national infrastructure [Russia] relies on,” said Col. Philip Ingram, a former British military intelligence officer and NATO planner.

“It’s like a mosquito — when you can’t find it, can’t kill it and it keeps coming back night after night, you’re going to be exhausted,” he said, “it’s a very good way of taking the pressure off from the front lines. If you only look at the movement of the front lines, Ukraine is doing less well in this war but the genius of what its military intelligence is doing in other dimensions of the conflict is making a difference.”

Russia launched a massive barrage of rocket and drone attacks across Ukraine on Friday, leaving more than a million people without power and killing five, hitting key infrastructure like the Dnipro hydroelectric dam and severing a power line at Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.

Galushchenko said the country repaired the damage to the electricity transmission system by midday but that the equipment remained vulnerable. Russian forces used 150 different types of missiles, drones and other weapons in the attack on the power system in what Galushchenko called the largest attack on Ukraine of the war.

“It was a massive attack, but it doesn't mean that before they were not attacking,” Galushchenko said in an interview from his office in Kyiv. “The energy infrastructure of Ukraine is every day under attack.”

The Ukraine energy minister reiterated the country’s need for international financial aid to help repair the damage that Russia has caused to Ukraine’s energy system. Democrats in the United States are offering to help House Speaker Mike Johnson keep his increasingly tenuous position if he brings a Ukraine aid package to the floor for a vote soon.

The Russians have increased the number of missiles they could use at once,” Galushchenko said. “They have increased the number of drones they could use at once. So it means that we also have to increase the number of defenses, which [can] shut down all this Russian activity.”