Nationalists and some Russian legislators have demanded the punishment of military commanders those they accuse of ignoring the dangers, while the growing outrage over the death of at least dozens of Russian soldiers in one of the deadliest attacks of the war in Ukraine.
In a rare revelation, Russia’s Defense Ministry said that 63 soldiers died on New Year’s Eve, in an explosion that destroyed a temporary barracks at a training school in Makiivka, twin city of the Russian-occupied Donetsk regional capital in eastern Ukraine. At the same time, kyiv claimed that the number of Russian deaths in Makiivka was in the hundreds.although the pro-Russian regional authorities called it an exaggeration.
Russian critics said that the soldiers were housed next to an ammunition depotwhich according to the Russian Defense Ministry was hit by four rockets fired from US HIMARS systems.
The New Year’s Eve bombing of Makiivka came as Russia continued its recent spate of overnight drone attacks on kyiv and other Ukrainian cities.
Russian military bloggers said the extent of the destruction was due to ammunition storage in the same building as the barracks, despite the fact that the military commanders knew that it was within range of Ukrainian rockets.
Igor Girkin, a former commander of pro-Russian troops in eastern Ukraine and now one of the most prominent Russian nationalist military bloggers, claimed that hundreds of people were killed or injured in the attack. Ammunition and camouflaged military material were stored at the site, 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 of placing 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?“, wrote. To the commanders “they don’t give a damn“, he claimed.
Ukraine rarely publicly claims responsibility for operations in Russian-controlled territory, and President Volodymyr Zelensky did not refer to Makiivka in his late-night speech on Monday. But the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported that it was “an attack against Russian military personnel and equipment.” He did not name casualties, but said 10 pieces of military equipment were destroyed.
The fury in Russia spilled over to its legislators.
Gregory Karasina 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 Mironovlegislator and former president of the Senate, the Russian upper house, demanded criminal responsibilities for the leaders who “allowed the concentration of military personnel in an unprotected building” and for “all higher authorities who did not provide the appropriate level of security.”
Unverified images posted online of the aftermath of the explosion at Russia’s Makiivka barracks showed a massive building reduced to smoking rubble.
Some of the deceased came from Russia’s southwestern region of Samara, the region’s governor told Russian media, urging affected relatives to contact recruitment centers for information.
Andrey Medvedeva, deputy chairman of the Moscow Duma and a pro-Kremlin journalist, declared that the authorities, whether civilian or military, must value the lives of Russians. “Or a person has the highest value – and then must be punished for stupid losses of personnel, such as treason– or the country is finished,” Medvedev wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
A Russian-backed military information center in the Donetsk region said there were 69 Ukrainian attacks in the region, including Makiivka, on Monday.
Putin bets on exhaustion
After suffering battlefield defeats in the second half of 2022, Russia resorted to large-scale airstrikes against Ukrainian cities.
Ukraine said on Monday it had shot down all 39 drones that Russia launched in a third night of airstrikes against civilian targets in kyiv and other cities.
kyiv authorities said their success shows that the Russian tactic of recent months of launching missiles and drones to knock out Ukraine’s energy infrastructure is increasingly failing as the capital beefs up its air defenses.
Russia denies attacking civilian targets in what it calls a “special military operation” against its southern neighbor that began on February 24, 2022.
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 were shot down, according to Zelensky, adding that Russia plans a protracted campaign of such attacks to “ exhaust” Ukraine.
“I’m probably betting on exhaustion. Exhaust our people, our air defenses, our energy,” Zelensky said in his late-night video address.
Ukraine, he said, has to “act and to do everything possible so that the terrorists fail in their objective, like everyone else has failed.”
(With information from Reuters/By Pavel Polityuk)
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