Russia blames cell phone use by its soldiers for deadly missile attack

Russia’s defense ministry on Wednesday blamed the illegal use of cellphones for a deadly Ukrainian missile attack that killed 89 servicemen, raising the death toll significantly.

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 are 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 training 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 reason 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.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made no mention of the attack in a video address on Tuesday in which he said Russia needed to launch a major offensive to improve its fortunes.

“We have no doubt that Russia’s current masters will throw everything they have and everyone they can muster into trying to turn the tide of the war and at least delay their defeat,” Zelenskiy said in a video address.

“We must 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 has said it launched an attack that resulted in the loss of Russian equipment and possibly personnel near Makiivka. But he did not give more details.

Russian nationalist bloggers and some pro-Russian officials in the region put the death toll in Makiivka in the hundreds, although some say these 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 seizure of territory.

BATTLE OF BAKHMUT

General Valery Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, said the situation at the front 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 over the dead bodies of their own soldiers, Zaluzhny wrote on the Telegram messaging app, saying Ukrainian forces were on the prowl.

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 storing ammunition inside Ukrainian territory,” resulting in many Russian deaths. “We have also read reports that many of these soldiers were new recruits.”

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

Turkey acted as a mediator alongside the United Nations last year to broker a deal to allow grain to be exported from Ukrainian ports, but the chances of serious peace talks appear remote, especially as fighting continues anger

Ukrainian General Zaluzhny, summarizing a Tuesday call with the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, thanked the American for helping to ensure the supply of anti-missile weapons systems that Kyiv says which is taking out more and more Russian missiles aimed at power generating plants.

Zaluzhny said he had discussed what team Ukraine needed to boost its chances against Russia, a message senior officials have flagged on a daily basis.

“Now is the time when, together with our partners, we should 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.

© Thomson Reuters 2023.

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