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Russia's Bashneft oil company installs anti-drone nets to protect refineries

(Reuters) - Russian oil producer Bashneft has installed anti-drone nets to protect key facilities at its refineries from potential Ukrainian attack, the head of the republic of Bashkortostan where the company is based was quoted as saying on Friday.

Russian companies which sell such nets on a commercial and public basis show giant meshed metal nets on their websites which nearly entirely cover refinery buildings from all sides and are held up by mooring lines attached to metal stakes in the ground.

Ukraine has stepped up its attacks on oil refineries in Russia, the world's second largest oil exporter, since the start of the year in an attempt to reduce Moscow's energy revenues and the amount of money it has to spend on the military.

Russia has so far not faced fuel shortages, but last month introduced restrictions on some gasoline exports for six months in an effort to protect its domestic fuel market.

Radiy Khabirov, the head of Bashkortostan in the Urals mountains where Bashneft is based, said talks were under way with Russia's defence ministry about boosting refinery security.

"The most important thing that was done is that we have secured the main columns (of refineries) with mechanical protection nets, and accordingly, the surveillance system is working," Bashinform, a local state news agency, cited Khabirov as saying.

"We don't stop there. There are a number of solutions there, which I won't talk about yet. They are classified. But believe me, we worry about this very much," he said.

Bashneft is controlled by Russia's largest oil producer Rosneft ROSN.MM and it has several refineries in the region, important for the country's energy sector.

Russia says the drone attacks amount to terrorism.


Ukraine does not officially confirm or deny it is attacking refineries inside Russia, but says the facilities are legitimate targets which aid the Russian military effort at a time when Russian strikes are pounding Ukrainian cities and infrastructure, including energy facilities.

Russia has been able to swiftly repair some key oil refineries hit by Ukrainian drones, reducing capacity idled by the attacks to about 10% from almost 14% at the end of March, Reuters calculations showed earlier this week.

There have been no reports of successful attacks on large Russian refineries since the Taneco plant in the Republic of Tatarstan was hit on April 2.

The respite in Ukraine's strikes comes after criticism from the United States, the world's top energy consumer, where fuel prices are high on the agenda in the run up to a presidential election on Nov. 5.

Replying to Republican Senator Tom Cotton on why Joe Biden's administration was discouraging such Ukrainian attacks, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the Senate Armed Services committee last week that the attacks could harm global energy markets.

A Russian energy ministry official told a parliamentary meeting last month that there were plans to defend oil and gas facilities with missile systems.

But Rustam Minnikhanov, the head of Russia's oil producing Tatarstan Republic, expressed skepticism about deploying air defense systems to protect energy infrastructure, saying the weapons were engaged "with other tasks".

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