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Fire Engulfs Key Russian Oil Depots Near Ukraine

An oil storage facility is hit by fire in Bryansk Region. Max Kirilovsky / TASS

A fire has erupted at a key Russian oil depot and a second military site near the Ukrainian border, Russian authorities said early Monday.

Social media accounts based in Russia’s Bryansk region shared footage of what they described as explosions and a fire at the Transneft-Druzhba depot. The state-run oil export company’s subsidiary runs one of the world’s longest oil pipelines from Russia to Europe.

Emergency services dispatched fire and rescue crews to the site at 2:00 a.m. Moscow time, the Emergencies Ministry’s regional branch said in a since-deleted statement.

It later told state-run news agencies there were no casualties and no plans to evacuate residents. Bryansk-based social media accounts showed thick clouds of smoke and emergency crews still arriving at the site after sunrise.

Emergency services told the RIA Novosti news agency that another site it declined to identify has also been engulfed in the fire.

State television later reported that the first location was a civilian facility housing 10,000 tons of fuel and the second a military site with 5,000 tons.

It was not immediately clear whether the fires less than 100 kilometers from the Ukrainian border were related to the war in Ukraine.

Bryansk serves as a logistics base for Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine.

Military analyst Rob Lee said on Twitter that reports indicated the second location could be a military base with on-site fuel tanks. He suggested the fires may have been caused by a Tochka-U tactical ballistic missile, which has the range to reach both targets if deployed near the Russian-Ukrainian border.

The Bryansk region was among several border regions to declare an elevated “terror” threat level earlier  this month, weeks after Russia launched an unprovoked invasion Ukraine on Feb 24.

Surveillance video shared by social media accounts with purported links in Rusian security services showed what they described as the moment of the explosion, accompanied by sounds similar to a flying missile, early Monday.

The head of Russia’s top investigative body, the Investigative Committee, has ordered a probe into the incident, according to state news agencies. 

Built in the 1960s to supply the Soviet Union’s Eastern European allies, the Druzhba pipeline passes through Ukraine and Belarus to deliver oil to Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and the Baltics.

Corrections were made to this article to indicate that the fire engulfed an oil depot, not a pipeline.

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