Russia blames its soldiers’ mobile phone use for deadly missile strike

  • 89 Russian soldiers killed in New Year’s strike – Defense Ministry
  • Bakhmut on the eastern front is still the scene of intense fighting
  • Kiev reiterates Russia’s belief to launch a major mobilization

KIEV, Jan 4 (Reuters) – Russia’s Defense Ministry on Wednesday blamed the illegal use of cellphones for a deadly Ukrainian missile attack that killed 89 servicemen, significantly raising the death toll.

Moscow previously said 63 Russian soldiers were killed in the weekend strike. The ministry’s reaction came amid growing anger among some Russian commentators, who have become increasingly vocal about what they see as a half-hearted campaign in Ukraine.

Most of the anger on social media was directed at military commanders rather than Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Russian Defense Ministry said four Ukrainian missiles hit a temporary Russian barracks at a vocational college in Makiivka, a twin city of the Russian-held regional capital of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

Although an official investigation has been launched, the main motive for the attack was clearly the massive illegal use of mobile phones by the military, the ministry said.

“This factor allowed the enemy to track and determine the coordinates of the soldiers’ location for a missile attack,” he said in a statement issued shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday in Moscow (2200 GMT Tuesday).

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy made no mention of the attack in a video on Tuesday in which he said Russia was ready to launch 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 muster to try to turn the tide of the war and at least delay their defeat,” Zelenskiy said in a video.

“We have to disrupt this Russian scenario. We are preparing for it. The terrorists must lose. Any attempt at their new offensive must fail,” he continued.

Ukraine’s military said it launched an attack that resulted in the Russian loss of equipment and possibly personnel near Makiivka. But he did not give further details.

Russian nationalist bloggers and some pro-Russian officials in the region put the Makiivka death toll in the hundreds, although some say those estimates are exaggerated.

The attack was another blow to Putin and what he calls a “special military operation” to deter threats to Russian security and protect Russian speakers. Ukraine and its allies accuse Moscow of an unprovoked imperialist-style land grab.

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FIGHT OF BAKHMUT

General Valery Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, said the situation on the front line near the eastern city of Bakhmut was particularly tough.

Russian forces have repeatedly tried to take Bakhmut and its surroundings, in some cases literally advancing on the dead bodies of their own soldiers, Zaluzhny wrote on the Telegram messaging app, saying Ukrainian forces were standing by.

A little-known patriotic group supporting the widows of Russian soldiers is calling on Putin to order a large-scale mobilization of millions of men and close the borders to ensure victory in Ukraine.

Zelenskiy reiterated Ukrainian claims that Moscow is planning a large-scale mobilization, a step 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 stored ammunition inside Ukrainian territory” and resulted in many Russian deaths. “We also read reports that many of these soldiers were new recruits.”

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

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Turkey brokered a deal with the United Nations last year to allow grain exports from Ukrainian ports, but the chances of serious peace talks appear remote, especially as fighting continues to rage.

Ukrainian General Zaluzhny, summarizing a call on Tuesday with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States, General Mark Milley, thanked the American for helping to ensure the provision of anti-missile weapons systems that Kiev says are increasingly eliminating Russian guided missiles. power generating stations.

Zaluzhny said he discussed what equipment Ukraine needed to increase its chances against Russia, a message that senior officials hammer home on a daily basis.

“Right now is the time when, together with our partners, we must strengthen our defense,” Zelenskiy said.

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

Reuters bureau reports; written by David Ljunggren and Grant McCool; Edited by Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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