Russia's admission that dozens of its soldiers were killed in one of the worst strikes of the Ukraine conflict infuriated Russian nationalists, including politicians. It prompted calls for commanders to be punished for placing men near an ammo dump.
Russia's defense ministry revealed on New Year's Eve that 63 servicemen were killed in an explosion that demolished a temporary barracks in a former vocational college in Makiivka, the twin city of the Russian-occupied regional capital of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.
According to the defense ministry, four rockets fired from U.S.-made HIMARS launchers struck the target. It was reported that two missiles were shot down. Ukraine claimed that the number of Russian casualties was in the hundreds, but pro-Russian sources dismissed this as an exaggeration.
According to Russian military bloggers, the massive destruction was caused by keeping ammunition in the same structure as a barracks, despite commanders' knowledge that it was within range of Ukrainian rockets.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy did not mention the Makiivka incident in his Monday evening address. Ukraine nearly never openly claims responsibility for attacks on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine.
Monday, however, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces declared that the Makiivka offensive was "a strike on Russian manpower and military equipment" There was no mention of injuries. Still, it was stated that ten pieces of military equipment were destroyed.
Separately, Ukraine announced Monday that it had shot down all 39 drones Russia launched during the third consecutive night of airstrikes against civilian targets in Kyiv and other cities.
Ukrainian officials said their achievement indicated that Russia's strategy of pouring down missiles and drones on Ukraine's energy infrastructure in recent months was rapidly failing as Kyiv bolstered its air defenses more than ten months after the invasion by Russian soldiers.
Russian Bloggers Critical
Unverified footage of the explosion's aftermath at the Russian barracks in Makiivka that was shared online shows a massive edifice reduced to burning ruins.
Samara is a region in the southwest of Russia, the region's governor informed Russian media, inviting concerned family members to contact local recruitment centers for further information.
"There are wounded, alas, there are dead," regional governor Dmitry Azarov was cited as saying by state news agency TASS.
Igor Girkin, a former leader of pro-Russian troops in eastern Ukraine and now one of the most prominent Russian nationalist military bloggers stated that hundreds of people had been killed or injured in the explosion. He noted that ammunition had been placed at the location and that military equipment was not concealed.
"What happened in Makiivka is horrible," wrote Archangel Spetznaz Z, another Russian military blogger with over 700,000 Telegram subscribers.
"Who came up with the idea to place personnel in large numbers in one building, where even a fool understands that even if they hit with artillery, there will be many wounded or dead?" he wrote. He stated that commanders "couldn't care less" about disorganized ammo storage on the battlefield.
The open hostility extended to the Russian legislators.
Grigory Karasin, a former deputy foreign minister and member of the Russian Senate, advocated retribution against Ukraine and its NATO sympathizers and "an exacting internal analysis."
Sergei Mironov, a Russian lawmaker, and former Senate chairman requested criminal accountability for the officials who "allowed the concentration of military personnel in an unprotected building" and "all the higher authorities who did not provide the proper level of security."
Andrey Medvedev, the vice-speaker of the Moscow City Duma and pro-Kremlin journalist, stated that civilian and military authorities must respect Russian life.
"Either a person is of the highest value – and then punish for stupid losses of personnel, as for treason to the fatherland – or the country is over," Medvedev said on the Telegram messaging app.
Russia's Nightly Attacks
Russia rang in the New Year by attacking Ukrainian cities at night, hundreds of kilometers away from the front lines. During prior months, Moscow had typically separated these attacks by one week.
After suffering battlefield losses in the second part of 2022, Russia launched massive airstrikes against Ukrainian cities.
After launching dozens of missiles on December 31, Russia sent around eighty Iranian-made Shahed drones on January 1 and 2, all of which were shot down, according to Zelenskiy.
"This quantity may increase shortly. In the following weeks, the nights could be anything but tranquil, "Zelenskiy remarked.
A separate missile strike in eastern Ukraine destroyed an ice rink in the village of Druzhkivka, which had hosted Ukrainian championships and international contests, according to the Donbas ice hockey club.
Zelenskiy stated that Russia's attacks would be ineffective "because we are a united front. Fear alone holds them together."