The big war news yesterday (Monday) was the Ukrainian bombing of an offshore oil drilling platform, owned by the company Chernomor-Nefte-Gaz (“Black Sea Oil-Gas”). The platform is one of three located in the middle of the Black Sea, just 71 kilometers from Odessa. The attack happened around 8:00 AM (Moscow time?) In the fog of war, it seems like Ukrainian rockets attacked all three platforms simultaneously, but only one was actually struck, and damaged. It seems like all three rigs have been evacuated, however, and now soldiers are guarding the two undamaged ones, while firefighters battle the blaze on the damaged one.
According to the latest: Ninety-four oil workers have been evacuated from the rigs; of which three were injured. Sadly, seven workers have disappeared without a trace and are still unaccounted for. Rescue efforts continue as boats scan the waters, and hope has not been given up yet.
Meanwhile, firefighters are still struggling with the blaze. According to Olga Kovitidi, a Senator from Crimea: “The fire on the platform rages on. They tried to approach it by ship, but did not succeed. Efforts to put out the fire continue.”
Next we turn to this more analytical piece, to try to figure out why the Ukrainians did this. The reporters are Rafael Fakhrutdinov and Alyona Zadorozhnaya.
For starters, this damaged oil platform is the property of the Russian Federation. No doubt it can be repaired. But even in worst case scenario; if it could not be repaired, the economic loss to Russia would only be a tiny dent. Thus, it is not a catastrophic type situation, in the economic sense, although the risk of ecological damage to the Black Sea is significant. The question is, why would Ukraine undertake such a risky operation? Knowing that (a) they could damage the entire Sea, and (b) there is bound to be a retaliation from the Russian side.
Another important question is why the platform was not better guarded. This could be an issue of simple negligence, what Russians call khalatnost, after the word for a robe, khalat. As in, walking around in your robe and not planning for all the possible risks. After the fact, soldiers (presumably from the Crimean garrison) have been posted to guard the offshore platforms. Also in reactive mode, the Russian Prosecutor General has opened a criminal investigation against whichever Ukrainian officials shall have been proved to have been responsible for issuing this order to attack the platforms. Presumably, when the war is over, such officials will be arrested and charged with terrorism.
State Duma Deputy Viktor Vodolatsky believes that the strike was implemented using British or American rockets.
A better question is raised by Sergei Khatylev, whom we met in a previous post, when we were discussing the defense of the Crimea Bridge. Khatylev is a former commander of Russian rocket forces: “This oil field is under the umbrella of the medium and long-range Anti-Air complexes, and also the Black Sea fleet. At larger distances the platforms are protected by air destroyers. In other words, why did this attack succeed? Judging by everything, although nobody is talking about this, it seems that the Western nations have succeeded in creating some kind of shielding technology, not to mention reconnaissance and perhaps deflecting maneuvers.”
Khatylev’s theory is supported by info that has emerged, namely: Just a week before the strike, American commercial satellites were snapping photos of this area of the Black Sea that contains the Chernomor-Nefte-Gaz oil platforms. Three satellites named Worldview-1, Worldview-2 and Worldview-3 snapped photos of the rigs on 11, 13 and 14 June, respectively. Military expert Alexander Bartosh believes that the Americans put the Ukrainians up to the attack. He doesn’t think the Ukrainians would have had the cojones to think this up or do it by themselves, without being egged on from the American side. For his part, Khatylev thinks he knows what the Americans are up to and what their game is: He believes that this attack was designed to force Russian Black Sea ships to patrol closer to the shore. All the better to pick them off with Ukrainian Harpoon missiles. But, in this chess game, Khatylev believes he knows the next move: “In order to protect the oil platforms, it is enough to conduct a technical-organizational regrouping of the existing forces. [In other words, not necessary to move the ships closer.] For example, using the forces on Snake Island. That’s where we have our radar and rocket complexes. It is plausible that the Russian Defense Ministry will decide to strengthen the aviation grouping in this area.”
In other words, everything always comes back to Snake Island.