NewsUkraine's AI drones hit Russian oil refineries, shaking economy

Ukraine's AI drones hit Russian oil refineries, shaking economy

War in Ukraine. Ukrainian drones effectively attack Russian refineries.
War in Ukraine. Ukrainian drones effectively attack Russian refineries.
Images source: © Getty Images | Global Images Ukraine
8:42 AM EDT, April 3, 2024

The Ukrainian military has been deploying autonomous drones powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to target Russian refineries. According to a Tuesday analysis by CNN, these operations leverage one of Russia's most lucrative economic sectors. The use of such advanced technology in attacks comes after the United States had previously intervened.

CNN highlights that the Ukrainian strategy includes the employment of AI-equipped drones. These drones operate autonomously, without communicating with command centres during their flights, enhancing their reliability. This information comes from an anonymous Ukrainian drone development program source.

"The precision of these attacks is attributed to the drones' AI capabilities. Each unmanned vehicle is loaded with a computer that processes both satellite and terrestrial data," a CNN informant shared.

Moreover, an official explains the meticulous planning behind these drones' operations. "The flight path, determined with our allies, allows drones to hit designated targets accurately," he says.

Ukraine Precisely Targets Russian Refineries

Since the onset of the full-scale conflict with Russia on February 24, 2022, the Ukrainian military has repurposed available resources, including civilian drones, for combat purposes. Over time, Kyiv has developed and locally produced long-range combat drones, enabling direct operations against critical infrastructure within Russia.

Conversations with analysts revealed to CNN that the Ukrainian forces have shifted their focus from oil depots to refineries, critically impairing Russia's oil processing capabilities, which are crucial for both sales and military applications.

"Targets chosen by Ukrainian forces often rely on Western technology. Given the sanctions, Russia faces substantial challenges and costs in repairing damaged infrastructure," Noah Sylvia from the British Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) observed.

March's refinery attacks suggest a strategic pivot aimed at crippling the Russian arms industry, Helima Croft of RBC Capital Markets told CNN. This approach might impact the Russian economy more than existing sanctions.

The West Surprised by Ukrainian Attack Efficiency

According to an RBC Capital Markets analyst, sanctions have largely spared the Russian energy sector, which remains a pivotal financial resource for Russia's war efforts. A March report by Reuters indicated a 14% reduction in Russia's oil processing capabilities. In response, Russia curtailed fuel exports to mitigate local market impacts.

Notably, CNN points out that sanctions were crafted to allow the Russian energy sector to continue operating and avoid a global energy market crisis. This led the United States to urge Kyiv in March to cease attacks on Russian energy infrastructure, as outlined in a report from ESSA News.

Ukraine's response underscored successful operations against Russian targets, which Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefaniszyna deemed justifiable military objectives.

US Appeals May Fall Short

The effectiveness of the United States appeals is questionable. A deadlock in Washington, stemming from internal Republican and Democratic tensions, has delayed further financial and military support to Ukraine. Consequently, Ukrainian forces might persist in their strategic operations.

Vasyl Maluk, head of Ukrainian intelligence (SBU), echoes the urgency of diminishing Russian budget revenues to "cut off oxygen" to the regime, reportedly referring to the leadership as "Putler," as quoted by CNN.
"We will continue our efforts, ensuring this 'gas station country' keeps burning," Maluk declared, emphasizing the resolved stance of the Ukrainian military.
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