Moscow says Ukrainian rocket strike kills 63 Russian troops

Ukrainian forces fired rockets at a facility in the eastern Donetsk region where Russian soldiers were stationed, killing 63 of them, Russia’s defense ministry said Monday, in one of the deadliest attacks on the Kremlin’s forces since the war began more than 10 months ago.

Ukrainian forces fired six rockets from a HIMARS launch system and two of them were shot down, a defense ministry statement said. It did not say when the strike happened.

The strike, using a U.S.-supplied precision weapon that has proven critical in enabling Ukrainian forces to hit key targets, delivered a new setback for Russia which in recent months has reeled from a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

According to the governor of Russia’s Samara region, Dmitry Azarov, an unspecified number of residents of the region were among those killed and wounded by the strike on the town of Makiivka.

Russian military bloggers, whose information has largely been reliable during the war, said ammunition stored close to the facility had exploded in the attack and contributed to the high number of casualties.

Expressing anger at the losses, Daniil Bezsonov, an official with the Russian-appointed administration in Russian-occupied Donetsk, called for the punishment of military officers who ordered a large number of troops to be stationed at the facility.

The Ukrainian military appeared to acknowledge the attack Monday, with the General Staff confirming that Makiivka was hit on Dec. 31, and saying 10 Russian military vehicles were destroyed or damaged. It added that Russian personnel losses were still being clarified.

In a claim that could not be independently verified, the Strategic Communications Directorate of Ukraine’s Armed Forces had maintained Sunday that some 400 mobilized Russian soldiers were killed in a vocational school building in Makiivka and about 300 more were wounded. The Russian statement said the strike occurred “in the area of Makiivka” and didn’t mention the vocational school.

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