Power play: Facing upcoming elections, US President Joe Biden wants attacks on Russian energy infrastructure to stop. (Rebecca Noble/Getty Images)


US wants Ukraine to stop hitting Russian oil refineries


The US has urged Ukraine to halt strikes on Russian energy infrastructure, warning that drone strikes risk provoking retaliation and driving up global oil prices, the Financial Times has reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The attacks helped boost oil prices that have risen nearly 4 per cent since March 12, when Ukraine first started targeting Russia’s energy infrastructure. A further rally in petrol prices in the US would weaken President Joe Biden’s ratings and undermine his re-election chances.

“Nothing terrifies a sitting American president more than a surge in pump prices during an election year,” Bob McNally, president of consultancy Rapidan Energy and a former White House energy adviser, told the British newspaper.

Russia and Ukraine have both used drones to strike critical infrastructure, military installations and troop concentrations in their two-year war, with Kyiv hitting Russian refineries and energy facilities in recent months.

Repeated warnings from Washington were delivered to senior officials at Ukraine’s state security service, the SBU, and its military intelligence directorate, known as the GUR, the people told the FT.

Both intelligence units have steadily expanded their own drone programmes to strike Russian targets on land, sea and in the air since the start of the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

One person said the White House had grown increasingly frustrated by “brazen” Ukrainian drone attacks that have struck oil refineries, terminals, depots and storage facilities across western Russia, hurting its oil production capacity.

Russia remains one of the world’s most important energy exporters despite western sanctions on its oil and gas sector. Oil prices have risen about 15 per cent this year, to almost €79 a barrel, pushing up fuel costs just as Biden begins his campaign for re-election.

Washington is also concerned that if Ukraine keeps hitting Russian facilities, including many that are hundreds of miles from the border, Russia could retaliate by lashing out at energy infrastructure relied on by the west.

This includes the CPC pipeline carrying oil from Kazakhstan through Russia to the global market. Western companies including ExxonMobil and Chevron use the pipeline, which Moscow briefly shut in 2022.

“We do not encourage or enable attacks inside of Russia,” an NSC spokesperson said.

The CIA declined to comment.

In Kyiv, a spokesperson for the SBU also declined to comment, while officials at GUR and Zelenskyy’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Additional reporting from Reuters