Russia blames the use of mobile phones by its soldiers for the deadly missile attack

  • 89 Russian servicemen killed in New Year’s offensive – Ministry of Defense
  • Bakhmut is still on the eastern front, the scene of fierce clashes
  • Kyiv reiterates its belief that Russia is making a major mobilization

KYIV (Reuters) – Russia’s Defense Ministry on Wednesday blamed the illegal use of mobile phones for a deadly Ukrainian missile attack that killed 89 servicemen, dramatically raising its reported death toll.

Moscow said earlier that 63 Russian soldiers were killed in the attack, which took place at the weekend. The ministry’s response came amid mounting anger among some Russian commentators, who are increasingly vocal about what they see as a half-hearted crackdown in Ukraine.

Most of the anger on social media was directed at military leaders, not at Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said four Ukrainian missiles hit a temporary Russian barracks at a vocational college in Makevka, the twin city of the Russian-occupied regional capital of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

The ministry said that although an official investigation had been launched, the main reason for the attack was the illegal mass use of mobile phones by military personnel.

“This factor allowed the enemy to track and determine the coordinates of the soldiers’ positions for a missile strike,” it said in a statement issued just after 1 am in Moscow on Wednesday (2200 GMT Tuesday).

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made no mention of the attack in a video address on Tuesday, in which he said Russia was preparing a major offensive to improve its fortunes.

“We have no doubt that the current masters of Russia will throw everything they have left and everyone they can gather in an attempt to turn the tide of war and at least delay their defeat,” Zelensky said in a video address.

“We must disrupt this Russian scenario. We are preparing for that. The terrorists must lose. Any attempt to launch their new attack must fail,” he added.

The Ukrainian military said it carried out a strike that resulted in Russian loss of equipment and possibly personnel near Makevka. But she did not give more details.

Russian nationalist bloggers and some pro-Russian officials in the area have put the death toll in Makeyevka in the hundreds, although some say these estimates are exaggerated.

The attack was another blow to Putin and what he called a “special military operation” to deter threats to Russian security and protect Russian speakers. Ukraine and its allies accuse Moscow of unjustified imperial-style land grabs.

Deadly fight

The situation on the front line near the eastern town of Bakhmut was particularly difficult, said General Valery Zaluzhny, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Russian forces have repeatedly tried to capture Bakhmut and the surrounding area, in some cases actually stepping over the corpses of their own soldiers, Zalogny wrote on the messaging app Telegram, saying Ukrainian forces were on hold.

A little-known nationalist group supporting widows of Russian soldiers has called on Putin to order a massive mobilization of millions of men and the closure of borders to ensure victory in Ukraine.

Zelensky repeated Ukrainian assurances that Moscow is planning a large-scale mobilization, a move Russian officials say is not currently being considered.

A US State Department spokesman said Washington had seen reports “that the Ukrainian military struck a Russian military barracks that were storing ammunition inside Ukrainian territory” and that several Russians were killed. “We’ve also read reports that many of these soldiers were new recruits.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax that Putin planned to hold talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, the latest in a series of talks the two have held since the start of the war.

Turkey acted as a mediator alongside the United Nations last year to seal an agreement allowing the export of grain from Ukrainian ports, but the chances of serious peace talks appear remote, especially as fighting continues to rage.

The Ukrainian general, summarizing a call Tuesday with the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, thanked the United States for helping ensure the provision of anti-missile weapon systems that Kyiv says eliminate more and more Russian missiles targeting it. Power plants.

Zaluzhny said he discussed the equipment Ukraine needs to increase its chances against Russia, a message that senior officials have hammered out on a daily basis.

“Now is the moment when we must strengthen our defense with our partners,” Zelensky said.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has told Zelensky that he can count on Britain for long-term support “as evidenced by the recent delivery of more than 1,000 anti-aircraft missiles,” Sunak’s office said on Tuesday.

Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by David Leungren and Grant McCall; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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