Russia blames Ukraine attack that killed 89 soldiers on troops having their phones switched on

4 January 2023, 09:14

Ukraine killed at least 89 Russian soldiers in the strike
Ukraine killed at least 89 Russian soldiers in the strike. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

Soldiers having their phones switched on was to blame for a Ukrainian attack that killed at least 89 members of the Russian military, the Kremlin has said.

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Ukrainian missiles hit a vocational college in Makiyivka, in the Russian-occupied region of Donetsk, in the early hours of New Year's Day. The college was being used to train Russian conscripts.

General Lieutenant Sergei Sevryukov said that phone signals allowed Kyiv's forces to "determine the coordinates of the location of military personnel" and launch the deadly strike.

He said measures were being taken to "prevent similar tragic incidents in the future" and promised to punish officials responsible for the failure.

Mourners gather with priests to lay flowers in memory of the dead soldiers
Mourners gather with priests to lay flowers in memory of the dead soldiers. Picture: Getty

Ukrainian forces fired six rockets from a US-provided Himars multiple launch system at a building "in the area of Makiivka" where the soldiers were stationed.

Two rockets were downed but four hit the building and detonated, prompting the collapse of the structure.

The Russian Defence Ministry initially said the strike killed 63 troops but as emergency crews sifted through the rubble of the building, the death toll has grown to 89, Mr Sevryukov said. The regiment's deputy commander Lt. Col. Bachurin was among the dead.

The assault was the biggest loss of life reported by Russia so far
The assault was the biggest loss of life reported by Russia so far. Picture: Getty

Other, unconfirmed reports put the death toll much higher.

The Strategic Communications Directorate of Ukraine's armed forces claimed on Sunday that around 400 mobilised Russian soldiers were killed in a vocational school building in Makiivka and about 300 more were wounded.

Read more: Russia suffers heavy losses trying to take Ukrainian ‘fortress’ town of Bakhmut as offensive slows

Read more: Watch: Terrifying moment Russian airstrike explodes in huge fireball behind TV reporter broadcasting live

The Russian statement said the strike occurred "in the area of Makiivka" and did not mention the vocational school.

Approx 600 Russian soldiers who invaded Ukraine have been injured as the result of a recent attack.

The attack marked yet another setback for the Kremlin's war effort in Ukraine, which has been undermined by a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive. It stirred renewed criticism inside Russia of the way the war is being conducted.

Unconfirmed reports in Russian-language media said the victims were mobilised reservists from the region, which Russia annexed last year.

It comes as Russia is struggling to take a "fortress town" of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, where bitter fighting has raged for months. Both sides have taken heavy casualties.

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