An apparent Ukrainian strike in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine appears to have killed large numbers of Russian soldiers, according to the Ukrainian military, pro-Russian military bloggers and former officials.
The strike took place just after midnight on Sunday, New Year’s Day, at a vocational school housing Russian conscripts in Makiivka, Donetsk region, according to Ukrainian and pro-Russian accounts.
The attack led to strong criticism of the Moscow military from pro-Russian military bloggers, who claimed the troops lacked protection and were allegedly quartered next to a large ammunition cache, which allegedly exploded when Ukrainian HIMARS rockets hit the school. .
Ukraine’s military said later on Monday that the number of Russian servicemen killed at Makiivka was “being clarified” after earlier claiming that around 400 Russian soldiers had been killed and 300 others injured. He did not directly acknowledge a role in the strike. CNN cannot independently confirm these numbers or the weapons used in the attack.
Some pro-Russian military bloggers have also estimated the number of dead and wounded could be in the hundreds.
The Russian Defense Ministry on Monday acknowledged the attack and said 63 Russian servicemen had died, making it one of the deadliest episodes of the war for forces in Moscow.
Russian Senator Grigory Karasin said those responsible for killing Russian servicemen in Makiivka must be found, Russian news agency TASS reported on Monday.
Karasin, who is chairman of the Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee, said the deaths should not be forgotten.
A video of the scene of the attack is said to have circulated widely on Telegram, including on an official Ukrainian military channel. It shows a smoldering pile of rubble, in which almost no part of the building appears to be standing.
“Greetings and congratulations” to the separatists and conscripts who “were brought to the occupied Makiivka and crammed into the vocational school building,” the Strategic Communications Directorate of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Telegram. “Santa Claus packed up about 400 corpses of [Russian soldiers] in bags.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the Ukrainian attack used American-made HIMARS rockets.
Daniil Bezsonov, a former official in the Russian-backed Donetsk administration, said on Telegram that “apparently the high command is still not aware of the capabilities of this weapon.”
“I hope those responsible for the decision to use this facility will be reprimanded,” Bezsonov said. “There are enough abandoned settlements in the Donbass with solid buildings and basements where personnel can be housed.”
A Russian propagandist who blogs about the war effort on Telegram, Igor Girkin, claimed that the building was almost completely destroyed by the secondary detonation of the munitions stores.
“Almost all the military equipment, which stood near the building without the slightest sign of camouflage, was also destroyed,” Girkin said. “There are still no definitive figures on the number of victims, as many people are still missing.”
Girkin has long decried Russian generals who he says are leading the war effort away from the front line, calling them “uneducated on principle” and unwilling to listen to warnings about the proximity of equipment and personnel. personnel in the HIMARS range. Girkin was previously Defense Minister of the self-declared, Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic, and was convicted in a Dutch court of mass murder for his involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over the Eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Sergey Markov, another pro-Russian military blogger, said there was “a lot of negligence” on the part of the Russian command.
Boris Rozhin, who also blogs about the war effort under the nickname Colonelcassad, said “incompetence and failure to grasp the experience of war continues to be a serious problem”.
“As you can see, despite several months of war, certain conclusions are not drawn, hence the unnecessary losses, which, if the elementary precautions relating to the dispersal and concealment of personnel had been taken, would not have may not have happened.”
Donetsk has been in the hands of pro-Russian separatists since 2014 and is one of four Ukrainian regions that Moscow sought to annex in October in violation of international law.
The news comes after Ukraine’s military claimed more than 700 Russian soldiers were killed on Saturday, but did not say where.
Russian forces “lost 760 people killed yesterday (and) continue to attempt offensive actions against Bakhmut,” the army general staff said on Sunday.
Russian units have been on the offensive against the town of Bakhmut in Donetsk for months, but have suffered heavy casualties as Ukrainian forces targeted them in what is wide open rural territory.
Air raid sirens sounded across Ukraine over the weekend as new rounds of Russian missile strikes hit several regions. The attacks killed at least six people in Donetsk, Kharkiv and Chernihiv regions, while a man was injured early Monday.