Vladimir Putin faces furious calls from Moscow officials to be tried for treason after up to 400 of Russian soldiers were killed in a Ukrainian strike. The Russian dictator is under pressure as senior politicians and war commentators openly blasted the “stupid losses”.
Andrey Medvedev, deputy speaker of the Moscow City Duma, said authorities must value Russian lives.
“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,” the pro-Kremlin journalist said on the Telegram messaging app.
Sergei Mironov, former chairman of the Senate, Russia’s upper house, demanded criminal liability for the officials who had “allowed the concentration of military personnel in an unprotected building” and “all the higher authorities who did not provide the proper level of security”.
Ukraine claimed it killed “about 400” troops and wounded another 300 in the strike on temporary accommodation in the occupied town of Makiivka.
Online footage suggests the building – once a Ukrainian school – had been virtually flattened after ammunition stored inside detonated.
After nearly two days of silence, Russia acknowledged the attack – but last night claimed only 63 of its fighters died.
Armoured vehicles were also destroyed. The attack came as President Vladimir Putin was giving his New Year’s address.
The Ukrainian military later mocked Russia, warning troops against “smoking inappropriate places”. Just one two-storey wall was left standing among the smouldering debris after Ukraine’s assault.
Igor Girkin, a separatist military veteran turned commentator, said hundreds were killed and wounded, saying the building itself was “almost completely destroyed”.
He claimed the victims were mainly recent conscripts, rather than those who had chosen to fight.
Kremlin supporters were furious the men had been massed in an ammunition storage site that was an obvious target.
Last night the Kremlin finally acknowledged the strike in a rare admission that dozens of its soldiers were killed in a Ukrainian strike.
High-profile Russian military bloggers have today been reacting with anger, branding Moscow’s military leadership “fools” who didn’t value soldiers’ lives.
Archangel Spetznaz Z, a Russian military blogger with more than 700,000 followers on the Telegram messaging app, said: “What happened in Makiivka is horrible.
“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 added commanders “couldn’t care less” about ammunition stored in disarray on the battlefield.
Igor Girkin, a former commander of pro-Russian troops in eastern Ukraine, contradicted the Kremlin’s claims only 63 deaths, claiming hundreds had been killed or wounded.
Russian politicians have been speaking out about the incident, with Russian Senate member Grigory Karasin calling for an “exacting internal analysis”.
Workers were seen clearing debris at the building, according to images shared on social media today.
Exiled Russian journalist Alexander Nevzorov said dead and injured soldiers were buried in the rubble, but no effort was being made to locate or rescue them. He said: “The uncounted and uninteresting bodies will remain to rot under the concrete rubble. Soldiers’ meat in Russia is so cheap that it makes no sense to count.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, meanwhile, revealed he had received intelligence that a new, protracted campaign of Russian drone attacks is due.
In his nightly address, he said Iranian-made Shahed drones were likely to be used, as Moscow plans to “exhaust” Ukraine.
He added: “Now is the time when everyone involved in the protection of the sky should be especially attentive.”
He said Ukrainian air defences had shot down more than 80 Iranian-made drones in the opening days of 2023.