MAKIIVKA, Russian-controlled Ukraine: Russian nationalists and some lawmakers demanded sanctions for commanders they accused of ignoring the dangers as anger grew over the killing of dozens of Russian soldiers in one of the strikes the deadliest of the Ukrainian conflict.
In a rare revelation, the Russian Defense Ministry said 63 soldiers were killed in the Ukrainian New Year attack that destroyed a temporary barracks at a vocational college in Makiivka, a twin town of the regional capital occupied by the Russia, Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine.
Russian critics said the soldiers were housed next to an ammunition dump 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 picked up concrete debris several feet deep.
Ukraine and some Russian nationalist bloggers put the death toll in Makiivka at several hundred, though pro-Russian officials say those estimates are exaggerated.
Rallies to commemorate the dead were held in several Russian cities, including Samara, where some came from, the RIA Novosti news agency reported. Mourners laid flowers at the center of Samara.
“I haven’t slept for three days, Samara hasn’t slept. We are in constant contact with our guys’ wives. It’s very hard and scary. But we can’t be broken. Grief unites. .. We will not forgive, and, definitely, the victory will be ours,” RIA quoted Yekaterina Kolotovkina, a representative of a women’s council in an army unit, at one of the rallies.
The strike on Makiivka came as Russia launched what became overnight waves of drone attacks on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video address that the attacks were intended to “deplete our people, our air defenses, our energy.”
Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat told Ukrainian television that 84 drones had been shot down in two Russian attacks since the New Year.
Ukraine’s armed forces are organizing mobile groups to hunt them down, using jeeps and other vehicles equipped with anti-aircraft machine guns and searchlights, Ihnat said.
Zelenskyy, whose forces rely heavily on weapons and other equipment supplied by Western countries, 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 this year already,” he said on the Telegram messaging app of his call with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Foreign Mercenaries
The Russian Defense Ministry did not mention Makiivka in its daily bulletin on Tuesday but announced several offensives, including strikes by Russian Aerospace Forces which it said killed more than 130 foreign mercenaries in Donetsk.
He said missiles and airstrikes launched at a “concentration of material” near Druzhkivka railway station in Donetsk had killed “up to” 120 Ukrainians, destroyed two HIMARS launchers and more than 800 rockets.
Russia, which invaded Ukraine on February 24, has increasingly resorted to massive airstrikes against Ukrainian cities after suffering battlefield defeats in the second half of 2022. It denies targeting civilians.
Ukrainian officials said Russia struck parts of the Donetsk region controlled by Ukraine on Monday, hitting the village of Yakovlivka, the city of Kramatorsk and destroying an ice rink in Druzhkivka.
The governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk province, which together with Donetsk forms Moscow’s claimed industrial region of Donbass, said on Tuesday that Ukrainian forces had made steady advances towards Russian-held Svatove and the Kreminna.
Elsewhere, Ukraine’s military general staff said a December 31 strike on a Russian-held area in the southern Kherson region killed or injured some 500 Russian soldiers.
Reuters could not independently confirm the battlefield accounts.
Reuters footage showed a team of Ukrainian volunteers known as the “Black Tulip” exhuming the bodies of dead soldiers near the frontline in the Donetsk region.
“Every time you dig up a boy, you experience his nightmare and the horror he experienced in his last moment, when he realized it was 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 served as barracks, despite commanders knowing it was within range of Ukrainian rockets.
Igor Girkin, a former commander of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and now one of the most prominent Russian nationalist military bloggers, said hundreds of people were killed or injured in the strike on the December 31st. Military equipment stored at the site was not camouflaged, he said.
Ukraine almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks on Russian-held territory in Ukraine. Zelenskyy did not mention the Makiivka strike in his Monday night speech.
The fury in Russia has spread to lawmakers.
Grigory Karasin, member of the Russian Senate and former deputy foreign minister, demanded revenge against Ukraine and its NATO supporters but also “a demanding internal analysis”.
Sergey Mironov, a lawmaker and former speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament, called for the criminal responsibility of the officials who had “authorized the concentration of soldiers in an unprotected building” and “all the high authorities who did not ensure the level adequate security”.
A little-known patriotic group that supports the widows of Russian soldiers called Cheese fries order a massive mobilization of millions of men and close the borders to ensure victory in Ukraine.
The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the call. Putin said last month there was no need for further mobilization beyond the 300,000 additional troops called up in September.

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