Aftermath of recent shelling in Makiivka Aftermath of recent shelling in Makiivka 

Russian commission investigates deadly New Year's Day strike

Russian President Vladimir Putin faced embarrassment Wednesday after one of Ukraine's deadliest attacks on Russian troops. The military admitted that the unauthorized use of mobile phones reportedly caused the attack.

By Stefan J. Bos

Ukraine said it carried out a New Year's Day strike in the occupied region of Donetsk, killing as many as 400 Russian troops and injuring 300 more.

Moscow denied those figures and claimed nearly 90 Russian servicemen died in the Ukrainian attack on a college for conscripts in the city of Makiivka.

Russia's Defense Ministry blamed the attack Wednesday on troops' unauthorized use of mobile phones. Russian Lieutenant General Sergey Sevryukov told reporters that "a commission is still investigating the incident."

But he stressed it was "obvious that the main reason the attack could happen was the switching on and massive use of mobile phones by Russian forces despite a ban." He added: "This factor allowed the enemy to locate and determine the coordinates of the location of military personnel."

Sevryukov said that only two were intercepted of the six missiles fired by Ukrainian armed forces shortly after midnight on New Year's Day. He recalled that the ceiling of the building collapsed and that many Russian troops died.

Unusual confirmation 

"Immediately after the tragedy," he said, military personnel united in caring for victims. "First aid was provided, and the wounded were evacuated to medical facilities." But he admitted that beneath the rubble, in his words, "the number of our comrades who died increased to 89. Among the dead is the regiment's deputy commander, Lieutenant Colonel Bachurin."

It is unusual for Moscow to confirm any battlefield casualties. Instead, the losses were due to increased pressure on President Vladimir Putin, who ordered the Russian invasion of Ukraine last February.

Military sources said the deaths resulted from storing ammunition in the same building as a barracks despite commanders knowing it was within range of a Ukrainian military backed by munitions from Western nations.

With losses mounting, a patriotic group urged Putin to mobilize millions of men and to close the borders "to ensure victory in Ukraine."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claims  Moscow is planning a full-scale mobilization, a step Russia said wasn't considered yet.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos

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04 January 2023, 16:34