Minutes into the new year, Ukrainians launched a massive rocket fire at a Russian military base in the Donetsk region, likely killing hundreds of soldiers.
Although the numbers remain controversial, estimates by Russian bloggers and journalists range from 200 to 600 victims, the Wall Street Journal reports. Igor Girkin, a former soldier who led Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, has criticized the Russian government for placing military equipment near barracks. “The number of dead and wounded is in the hundreds,” Girkin claimed.
Russian state media tried to allay concerns about the attack by releasing a statement claiming that only 63 soldiers died in it.
Ukrainian leaders have yet to release the death toll, but military sources claim 400 Russian soldiers were killed and another 300 wounded in the barrage.
The strike follows competing end-of-year messages delivered by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin to their respective nations. While Zelenskyy sought to bolster Ukraine’s resolve in the face of Russian attacks on civilian areas, Putin reiterated his commitment to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“On February 24 millions of us made a choice. . . . Not a white flag, but a blue and yellow flag. Don’t flee, but meet. encounter with the enemy. Resist and fight,” Zelenskyy said during his video address, which was released just before midnight on New Year’s Eve.
The day before, on a visit to a military district in southern Russia, Putin claimed it had been “a year of really pivotal, fateful events.” “They have become the border that lays the foundation for our common future, our true independence. That is what we are fighting for today, for the protection of our people in our own historical areas, in the new regions of the Russian Federation,” Putin said.
The Ukrainian attack relied on US-supplied HIMARS missile systems designed by Lockheed Martin.