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War in Ukraine, Day 319 | Moscow says it carried out strikes in “retaliation” to that of Makiïvka



(Kyiv) Hostilities resumed on Sunday in Ukraine after the Orthodox Christmas truce decreed without convincing by Vladimir Putin, at the end of which Moscow claimed to have avenged its losses by killing hundreds in one strike, which immediately been denied by Kyiv.

In the Sumy region alone, in northeastern Ukraine, the local administration reported in the early evening of more than a hundred bombardments and strikes during the day on Sunday.

“The Russian army carried out 144 strikes during the day”, in particular on the localities of Esmansk, Novoslobid, Myropil, Bilopol and Khotyn which were “under fire”, wrote the head of the regional administration Dmytro Zhivitskiï on the Telegram social network.

In Esmansk in particular, the Russian army struck with mortars, Grad multiple rocket launchers and heavy artillery, destroying four houses, a school and a community hall.

However, there were no casualties in the region, according to the same source.

After the end of the ceasefire Saturday at midnight (4 p.m. EST), the Ukrainian general staff had already recorded more than fifty Russian attacks with missiles and rockets during the night .


The Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense, the situation is in particular “very difficult” in Soledar, a town located near Bakhmout, where AFP noted artillery duels on Friday after the theoretical entry into force of the ceasefire -Russian fire.

On Sunday morning, Ukrainian authorities said two people had been killed and nine others injured in the previous 24 hours in the country, despite a unilateral 36-hour ceasefire declared by Vladimir Putin from Friday 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday , Orthodox Christmas Day.

It was hardly respected, the Ukrainians accusing Moscow of having declared a fictitious ceasefire, and the Russians accusing them in return of having forced them to return fire. Westerners had denounced Moscow’s “hypocrisy”.

According to the deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential administration Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a civilian was killed in the Kharkiv region (north-east) and another in that of Donetsk (east). And nine people were injured in three regions.

In Kramatorsk, a city in the east of the country, AFP journalists had heard at least four explosions on Saturday before midnight.

Local Ukrainian authorities said the town was hit by seven Russian rockets overnight. Two other rockets targeted the nearby town of Kostiantynivka.


Smoke rising from artillery duels at Soledar on Friday

On Sunday, the Russian army claimed, without specifying the date, to have carried out strikes on barracks in Kramatorsk, and inflicted heavy losses amounting to hundreds of deaths in “retaliation” to the extremely deadly Ukrainian bombardment on a building of the locality of Makiivka on New Year’s Eve.

Russia – extremely rare – had recognized significant losses, with 89 soldiers killed. But Russian war correspondents and the Ukrainian authorities had for their part reported hundreds of deaths in this building where mobilized reservists had been gathered.

The first funeral of these soldiers took place in Russia on Sunday.

Prisoner exchange

These heavy losses among the reservists had aroused emotion in Russia, where the Kremlin decreed in the fall the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of men, and harsh criticism of the military command.

They also occurred in a humiliating way when President Vladimir Putin appeared in the company of soldiers in a vehement New Year’s message with regard to Ukraine and its Western allies.

“More than 600 Ukrainian soldiers were killed” in the strike on Kramatorsk, assured the Russian Ministry of Defense in a press release on Sunday, presenting it as a “retaliatory operation in response to the criminal strike of the Kyiv regime in the first minutes of January 2023”.

Ukraine has denied any strikes on barracks in Kramatorsk, saying the Russian claim “does not correspond to the truth”.

Earlier in the day, Pavlo Kirilenko, the head of the Ukrainian administration of the Donetsk region, claimed that the Russian strikes on the city had hit “an educational establishment, an industrial building and garages”, without making of victims.

It was not possible under the conditions of the conflict to immediately verify these claims.

“The world has been able to see once again in recent days that Russia is lying even when it draws attention to the situation with its own announcements,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday evening in a video message, commenting on the course of the ceasefire decreed the previous two days by Moscow.

He also welcomed the release Sunday of 50 Ukrainians by the Russians in favor of an exchange of prisoners, including 33 officers.

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