The strike against an oil dept in the Russian-annexed Crimean region was part of preparations being done for the forthcoming spring counteroffensive, the Ukrainian Armed Forces announced on Sunday.
A Russian-controlled oil depot in Sevastopol, the largest city in the Crimean peninsula, dramatically caught fire in the early morning hours on Saturday. Mikhail Razvozhaev, the Moscow-installed local governor of Sevastopol, later said that the incident was caused by an attack from two drones, and that the fire at one point reached 21,500 square feet in size.
On Sunday, during a 24-hour national news broadcast. Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Armed Forces, confirmed that the strike on the oil depot was carried out by Ukrainian forces “in preparation for the broad, full-scale offensive that everyone expects.”
Humeniuk further claimed that the “enemy’s logistics were undermined” and that Russian officials in the region are now trying “to evacuate their families and leave Crimea themselves” in response to the attack.
Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. Despite Russia’s continued insistence that the annexation was conducted based on a referendum from the Crimean people, the move has been widely condemned on the world stage, and many nations continue to recognize the peninsula as Ukrainian land.
During the recent year-long conflict with Russia, Ukrainian officials have frequently discussed the possibility of attempting to retake Crimea as part of the fight to push out the invading forces. Top Ukrainian government officials have claimed in recent weeks that Russian officials are fleeing the region in advance of the planned spring counteroffensive.
In his statements about the oil depot incident from Saturday, Razvozhaev insisted that the attack had not hurt anyone and that it would not have a disruptive impact on the energy situation in Crimea.
“I want to emphasize once again: The main thing is that no one was hurt,” Razvozhaev said. “With the rest—we’ll figure it out.”
Numerous reports of similar fires and attacks have emerged from Crimea over the last six months, particularly around Sevastopol. In addition to being Crimea’s largest city, it is also a key port that serves as the main base for Russia’s Black Sea Naval Fleet.
“The Ukrainian nights can be a bit chilly in the Springtime, so the Armed Forces of Ukraine generously helped the Russian invaders get warmed in the occupied Sevastopol,” Operation Starsky, the official Twitter account of a Ukrainian national guardsman, recently tweeted about the oil depot attack.
Newsweek reached out to foreign defense experts via email for insight and comment.