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Russians furious with commanders over Ukrainian rocket attack that killed dozens

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MAKIIVKA, Russia-controlled Ukraine (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Russian nationalists and some lawmakers have called for retribution for commanders accused of ignoring the dangers as anger mounts over the killing of dozens of Russian soldiers in one of the deadliest attacks in the Ukrainian conflict .

In a rare revelation, Russia said 63 soldiers were killed in a New Year’s Ukrainian attack that destroyed a temporary barracks at a vocational college in Makiivka, the twin city of the Russian-occupied regional capital of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

Russian critics said the soldiers were billeted next to an ammunition depot at the site, which the Russian Defense Ministry said was hit by four rockets fired from US-made HIMARS launchers.

Television footage showed a huge building reduced to rubble as cranes and bulldozers dug through concrete debris that lay several feet deep.

Ukraine and some Russian nationalist bloggers put Makiivka’s death toll in the hundreds, though pro-Russian officials say those estimates are exaggerated.

Demonstrations to commemorate the dead were held in several Russian cities, including Samara, where some were from, RIA Novosti news agency said. Mourners laid flowers in downtown Samara.

“I haven’t slept for three days, Samara hasn’t slept. We are constantly in touch with the wives of our guys. It’s very difficult and scary,” quoted RIA Yekaterina Kolotovkina, a representative of a women’s council at an army unit, like describing a demonstration.

“But we cannot be broken. Grief unites… We will not forgive and, surely, victory will be ours.”

The attack on Makiivka came as Russia was launching what became nightly waves of drone strikes on Kiev and other Ukrainian cities. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his video night speech that the attacks were aimed at “exhausting our people, our anti-aircraft defenses, our energy”.

Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat told Ukrainian TV that 84 drones had been shot down in two Russian strikes since the new year.

The Ukrainian military is organizing mobile groups to hunt them down, using jeeps and other vehicles equipped with anti-aircraft machine guns and searchlights, Ihnat said.

Zelenskiy, whose forces rely heavily on weapons and other equipment supplied by Western nations, held separate phone calls with the Dutch and British prime ministers on Tuesday.

“We have agreed to step up our efforts to bring victory closer already this year,” he said on messaging app Telegram of his call with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

FOREIGN MERCENARIES

Russia’s Defense Ministry did not mention Makiivka in its daily bulletin on Tuesday but announced several offensives, including attacks launched by the Russian Aerospace Forces which it said killed more than 130 foreign mercenaries in Donetsk.

It said rocket and air strikes launched at a “concentration of hardware” near Donetsk’s Druzhkivka railway station killed up to 120 Ukrainian personnel and destroyed two HIMARS launchers and more than 800 rockets.

Russia, which invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, has increasingly resorted to mass airstrikes against Ukrainian cities after suffering battlefield defeats in the second half of 2022. It denies targeting civilians .

The front lines have barely moved for weeks with the most intense fighting raging around the town of Bakhmut, described by commanders on both sides as a “meat grinder”.

Russian forces are literally trying to advance on the corpses of their own soldiers towards Bakhmut and the military situation remains the most difficult, said the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, General Valery Zaluzhny.

The governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk province, which together with neighboring Donetsk forms the Donbass industrial region claimed by Moscow, said on Tuesday that Ukrainian forces had made steady progress in the direction of Russian-controlled Svatove and Kreminna.

Elsewhere, the Ukrainian military staff said a Dec. 31 attack on a Russian-held area in the southern Kherson region killed or wounded about 500 Russian soldiers.

RockedBuzz via Reuters could not independently confirm the battlefield accounts.

RockedBuzz via Reuters footage showed a team of Ukrainian volunteers known as the “Black Tulip” exhuming the bodies of dead soldiers near the front line in the Donetsk region.

“Every time you dig up a boy, you experience his nightmare and the horror he went through in his last moment, when he realized that this is the end,” said volunteer Oleksii Iukov, 37.

RUSSIAN FURY

Russian military bloggers condemned the decision to store ammunition in the same building in Makiivka that was being used as barracks, despite the commanders knowing it was within Ukrainian rocket range.

Igor Girkin, a former commander of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and now one of Russia’s highest-profile nationalist military bloggers, said hundreds were killed or injured. The military equipment stored at the site was not camouflaged, he said.

Ukraine almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks on Russian territory in Ukraine.

Grigory Karasin, a member of the Russian Senate and former deputy foreign minister, called for revenge against Ukraine and its supporters of the NATO military alliance, but also for “a careful internal analysis”.

Sergei Mironov, lawmaker and former speaker of the upper house of Russia’s parliament, called for criminal liability for officials who had “allowed the concentration of military personnel in an unprotected building” and “all higher authorities who failed to provide the right level safety”. .

A little-known patriotic group that supports the widows of Russian soldiers has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to order a large-scale mobilization of millions of men.

The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the appeal. Putin said last month there was no need for further mobilization beyond the 300,000 troops recalled in September.

(Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kiev and other RockedBuzz via Reuters offices; Written by Michael Perry and Gareth Jones; Editing by Robert Birsel, Nick Macfie, Alexandra Hudson)

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