Rare Russian acknowledgment of casualties after barracks explosion.
The third night of Russian attacks on Ukraine signals a new tactic.
Ukraine says Russian airstrikes are failing.
KYIV: Russian nationalists and some lawmakers have demanded punishment for commanders they accused of ignoring the dangers as anger grew over the deaths of dozens of Russian soldiers in one of the deadliest attacks of the Ukraine war.
In a rare revelation, Russia’s Defense Ministry said 63 soldiers were killed on New Year’s Eve in a fiery explosion that destroyed a temporary barracks at a vocational college in Makiivka, the twin city of the Russian-occupied regional capital Donetsk. , in eastern Ukraine.
Russian critics said the soldiers were billeted next to an ammunition depot at the site, which the Russian Defense Ministry said was hit by four rockets fired from US-made HIMARS launchers.
The New Year’s Eve attack in Makiivka came as Russia was launching what have become nightly waves of drone attacks on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities.
Ukrainian officials said Russia had attacked Ukrainian-controlled parts of the Donetsk region on Monday, hitting the village of Yakovlivka, the city of Kramatorsk and destroying an ice rink in the city of Druzhkivka.
Ukraine said the Russian death toll in Makiivka was in the hundreds, though pro-Russian officials called it exaggerated.
Russian military bloggers said the extent of the destruction was due to ammunition storage in the same building as a barracks, even though commanders knew it was within range of Ukrainian rockets.
Igor Girkin, a former commander of pro-Russian troops in eastern Ukraine and now one of Russia’s highest-profile nationalist military bloggers, said hundreds of people had been killed or wounded. Ammunition had been stored at the site and the military equipment was not camouflaged, he said.
“What happened in Makiivka is horrible,” wrote Archangel Spetznaz Z, a Russian military blogger with more than 700,000 followers on the Telegram messaging app.
“Who came up with the idea to place personnel in large numbers in a building, where even a fool understands that even if they hit with artillery, there will be many injured or killed?” he wrote. Commanders “couldn’t care less,” he said.
Ukraine rarely takes public responsibility for attacks on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine, and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy did not address the Makiivka strike in his Monday night speech.
But the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported that the Makiivka attack was “an attack on Russian military manpower and equipment.” He did not mention the casualties, but said that 10 military equipment had been destroyed.
The fury in Russia spilled over to lawmakers.
Grigory Karasin, a member of the Russian Senate and former deputy foreign minister, not only demanded revenge against Ukraine and its NATO supporters, but also “a rigorous internal analysis.”
Sergei Mironov, a lawmaker and former head of the Senate, Russia’s upper house, demanded criminal liability for officials who “allowed the concentration of military personnel in an unprotected building” and “all high authorities who failed to provide the proper level of security.” .
Unverified footage posted online of the aftermath of the explosion at the Russian headquarters in Makiivka showed a massive building reduced to smoking rubble.
Some of the dead came from the Samara region of southwestern Russia, the region’s governor told Russian media, urging concerned relatives to contact recruitment centers for information.
Andrey Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Moscow City Duma and a pro-Kremlin journalist, said authorities, whether civilian or military, must value the lives of Russians.
“Either a person has the greatest value, and then he is punished for stupid losses of personnel, such as treason, or the country ends,” Medvedev wrote on the Telegram messaging application.
A Russian-backed military information center in the Donetsk region said there were 69 Ukrainian attacks in the region on Monday, including Makiivka.
‘Betting on exhaustion’
Having suffered battlefield defeats in the second half of 2022, Russia resorted to massive airstrikes against Ukrainian cities.
Ukraine said on Monday it had shot down all 39 drones that Russia had launched in a third night of airstrikes against civilian targets in Kyiv and other cities.
Ukrainian officials said their success showed that Russia’s tactic in recent months of launching missiles and drones to destroy Ukraine’s energy infrastructure was increasingly failing as Kyiv beefs up its air defenses.
Russia denies attacking civilians in what it calls a special military operation against its southern neighbor launched on February 24.
After firing dozens of missiles on December 31, Russia launched more than 80 Iranian-made Shahed drones on January 1 and 2, all of which had been shot down, Zelenskiy said, adding that Russia was planning a protracted campaign of this kind. type. attacks to “exhaust” Ukraine.
“It’s probably based on exhaustion. Exhaust our people, our air defenses, our energy,” Zelenskiy said in his late-night video address.
Ukraine, he said, had to “act and do everything possible to make the terrorists fail in their objective, as everyone else has failed.”