• Sat. Jan 28th, 2023

Use of cellphones by troops ‘main reason’ for Makiivka losses: Russian ministry


Mourners gather to lay flowers in memory of more than 80 Russian soldiers that Russia says were killed in a Ukrainian strike on Russian-controlled territory, in Samara, on January 3, 2023.— AFP
Mourners gather to lay flowers in memory of more than 80 Russian soldiers that Russia says were killed in a Ukrainian strike on Russian-controlled territory, in Samara, on January 3, 2023.— AFP

MOSCOW: Russia said Wednesday that the use of cellphones by soldiers on New Year’s Eve had led to the deadly strike on Makiivka in eastern Ukraine, where the military suffered heavy losses.

“Currently, a commission is working to investigate the circumstances of what has happened,” Lieutenant General Sergei Sevryukov said in a video statement released by the Russian defence ministry early Wednesday.

“But it is already obvious that the main reason… was the turning on and massive use by personnel of mobile phones within reach of enemy weapons contrary to the ban,” he said.

Russia says toll from Ukraine strike rises to 89

The toll from a Ukrainian New Year strike in Makiivka has risen to 89, Moscow said Wednesday, after Russians gathered to mourn the troops in a rare public display of anger and grief.

Russia said in the early hours of Wednesday that more bodies had been found under the rubble in the town of Makiivka in the Russian-controlled region of Donetsk and the toll had risen to 89.

The defence ministry declared that the tragedy had taken place because Russian troops had used cell phones, giving away their location to Ukrainian forces.

Russia said on Monday that 63 troops had been killed, the biggest loss of life from a single strike reported by Moscow since the start of the offensive in February.

“The number of our dead comrades has gone up to 89,” Lieutenant General Sergei Sevryukov said in a video statement released by the defence ministry early Wednesday. More bodies had been found under the rubble, he added.

Ukraine struck a temporary base in Makiivka at 12:01 am local time on January 1, using US-supplied HIMARS rocket systems, Sevryukov said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had just delivered his traditional New Year´s address. The Kremlin chief hailed “our heroes” fighting in Ukraine and declared that “historical rightness is on our side.”

Ukraine has taken responsibility for the strike and said the toll could be much higher. Russian war correspondents said many of the victims were reservists recently mobilised into the army.

The admission of the heavy losses came after the war correspondents, who have gained influence in recent months, accused Russia’s top commanders of fatal incompetence.

He said measures were being taken to ensure such incidents would not happen in the future, and all those responsible will be punished.

The new announcement came after mourners gathered in several cities of the Volga region of Samara — where some of the servicemen came from — to mourn the dead.

Call for revenge

At the gathering in Samara, where some 200 people laid wreaths and roses, Kolotovkina said she had asked her husband to “avenge” the victims.

“We will crush the enemy together. We are left with no choice,” she told mourners.

A little-known group, dubbed Soldiers’ Widows of Russia, urged Putin to announce general mobilisation.

Ukraine said it had faced waves of Russian drone and missile attacks since New Year’s Eve, mainly targeting energy and other critical infrastructure.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had spoken by phone with the leaders of Britain, Norway and the Netherlands and pointed to “the risks of escalation on the front”.

The hardest fighting is raging around the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine — a location with little strategic importance that Russian forces led by the mercenary group Wagner have been trying to capture for months.



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