(Moscow) The Ukrainian strike on Makiivka on New Year’s Eve left 89 people dead, Russia announced on Wednesday, where rallies in memory of the soldiers killed led to rare public displays of anger and sadness.
The number of Russian casualties, initially estimated at 63, was revised upwards after the discovery of new bodies in the ruins of a building in Makiivka, targeted by a Ukrainian strike on 1er January at 12:01 a.m. (5:01 p.m. EST), Russian General Sergei Sevryukov said in a video message released by the Russian Defense Ministry.
“A commission is currently investigating the circumstances” of the attack, he said. “But it is already evident that the main cause […] is the ignition and massive use by personnel of mobile phones within range of enemy weapons, contrary to the prohibition”, which would have made it possible to geolocate the troops, explained the general.
This is the heaviest toll in a single attack admitted by Moscow since the start of the offensive in February.
Unusual in Russia, where the authorities remain discreet about military losses in Ukraine, around 200 people gathered with the approval of the authorities in Samara (center), where some of the soldiers killed were from, to mourn the dead. in an Orthodox ceremony.
” Revenge ”
“It’s very hard, it’s scary. But we cannot be broken. Grief unites us,” said Ekaterina Kolotovkina, president of a group of soldiers’ wives, calling for “revenge.”
The Ukrainian General Staff confirmed on Monday that it carried out the New Year’s Eve strike on Makiivka, located east of the separatist city of Donetsk.
The Ministry of Defense in Moscow reported the explosion of “four missiles”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has yet to publicly respond to the strike.
According to the Ministry of Defense, the missiles were fired by HIMARS systems, a weapon supplied by the United States to Ukrainian forces and which struck “a temporary deployment center” of the Russian army in Makiivka.
Russian General Sergei Sevryukov claimed that his forces destroyed several Ukrainian missile launchers in Druzhkivka, Donetsk region, and killed 200 Ukrainians and foreign mercenaries after the attack on Makiivka. Ukraine, for its part, reported one death and the destruction of an ice rink.
The Strategic Communications Department of the Ukrainian Armed Forces meanwhile claimed that nearly 400 Russian soldiers were killed in Makiivka.
The announcement of these heavy losses immediately provoked criticism in Russia towards the military command, accused in particular by the former separatist leader Igor Strelkov, very familiar with the situation on the ground, of having stored ammunition in this building not protected.
“Dangerous and Criminal”
Increasingly influential Russian war reporters claim hundreds of people were killed at Makiivka and accuse senior military commanders of failing to learn from their past mistakes.
“Ten months after the start of the war, it is dangerous and criminal to regard the enemy as a fool who sees nothing,” said Andrey Medvedev, Deputy Speaker of the Moscow City Legislative Assembly.
On social media, some have accused Russian authorities of downplaying the death toll.
The announcement of the Makiivka strike came after a New Year marked by Russian bombardments of Kyiv and other cities, which left five people dead and dozens injured.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that his army had shot down more than 80 drones since the start of 2023. “In the near future, this number may increase,” he said.
Ukrainian Chief of Staff Valery Zalouzhny claimed that the army had so far liberated “40% of the territories occupied after February 24”.
After a series of military setbacks on the ground and Ukrainian attacks targeting Russian territory and annexed Crimea, Moscow opted from October to bombard infrastructure in Ukraine, regularly causing power cuts, heating and water.
According to the UN human rights official, they are causing “tremendous hardship” for Ukrainians.