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9 Apr, 2024 21:54

US reveals why it told Kiev not to attack Russian oil depots

Washington is concerned about global fuel prices, Defense Secretary Austin has said
US reveals why it told Kiev not to attack Russian oil depots

Ukraine should go after military objectives, as strikes on Russian refineries could raise global oil prices, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told a Senate panel on Tuesday.

Kiev has launched a series of drone raids on the Russian oil infrastructure in the past two months, targeting refineries and storage facilities in multiple regions.

“Those attacks could have a knock-on effect in terms of the global energy situation,” Austin told the Senate Armed Services committee, during a hearing on the annual military budget. “Ukraine is better served in going after tactical and operational targets that can directly influence the current fight.”

This drew disagreement from Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, who called the Ukrainian strikes effective and claimed the Biden administration just “doesn’t want gas prices to go up in an election year.”

Global oil prices have reached their highest point in six months, but Washington insists this is due to the conflict in the Middle East and that its sanctions and “price cap” on Russian oil exports have been effective. Meanwhile, Moscow has reported higher oil exports in 2023 than prior to the Ukraine conflict.

Austin’s testimony is further confirmation of reports that the US had asked Ukraine to stop with the refinery attacks. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has previously said that Washington’s reaction “was not positive.”

However, there is no sign that Kiev is willing to obey Washington on the issue. Earlier this week, Ukraine’s military intelligence (GUR) announced that strikes on oil refineries in Russia would expand.

Ukraine initially claimed the drone attacks aimed to disrupt the supply of fuel to the Russian military and “deliver a symbolic blow by bringing the war closer to Moscow.” In a recent interview, Zelensky sought to recast them as a form of deterrence, because Kiev was running out of missiles for its Western-provided air defenses.

Both Zelensky and Austin have asked the US Congress to approve over $60 billion in military aid to Ukraine. Without it, Zelensky said, Kiev is guaranteed to lose the war. Austin, on the other hand, pitched the aid as a way to provide jobs for American workers in the military industry.

More than $50 billion in the “national security supplemental” funding would end up spread across at least 30 federal states, Austin told the Senate. Pentagon officials have argued that the makers of everything from ammunition to submarines would benefit from the bill.