A Ukrainian rocket strike allegedly left 63 Russian service members dead in Makiivka (also spelled “Makeyevka”) in the Donetsk region, perhaps triggering what Kyiv believes will be a prolonged, stepped-up Russian drone campaign.
The Ukrainian strike was one of the deadliest yet against Russian forces and came after Russia rocked Ukraine with attacks on New Year’s Day.
“The Kyiv regime delivered a strike firing six projectiles from the US-made HIMARS multiple rocket launcher on a Russian unit near Makeyevka,” a “top brass” official said, according to the Russian state news agency TASS.
In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed that Ukrainian forces shot down over 80 drones on the second day of the new year.
“This number may increase in the near future. Because these weeks the nights can be quite restless,” he said.
Zelenskyy also said that he had information that Russia was planning a prolonged attack with Iranian-produced Shahed drones.
“[Russia’s] bet may be on exhaustion. On exhaustion of our people, our air defense, our energy sector,” he told the Ukrainian public. “But we must ensure — and we will do everything for this — that this goal of terrorists fails like all the others.”
There are conflicting reports on the number of casualties resulting from the recent strike by Ukraine, which hit a vocational school housing Russian conscripts in Makiivka. According to Ukraine, about 400 were killed and 300 were injured. Semyon Pegov, a Russian pro-war military blogger, similarly stated that the death tally was much higher than the 63 reported by Moscow, but could not confirm an exact figure.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a U.S. nonpartisan think tank, estimated that the death count was about 110, with over 100 wounded in the attack.
More importantly, the ISW pointed to the impact of the strike on Russian public opinion: “A devastating Ukrainian HIMARS strike on a Russian base in Makiivka, Donetsk Oblast, on December 31 generated significant criticism of Russian military leadership in the Russian information space.”
According to The Moscow Times, crowds gathered in many parts of the country in “a rare public show of Russian grief and anger over the human toll of the invasion of Ukraine.” The report noted that attendees appeared to be members of pro-Kremlin groups.
In a show of strength following the Ukrainian strike, Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, gave a rundown of all Ukrainian aircraft Russia has shot down since the invasion started 10 months ago, TASS reported.
Konashenkov listed over 4,000 aerial weapons being shot down, “as well as 7,876 special military vehicles” that have been destroyed.
TASS similarly reported that the Russian forces in Sevastopol fought off Ukrainian drone attacks, according to Governor Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Russian-installed governor of the city. Razvozhayev also claimed that Russia shot down a drone that landed in the Black Sea.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, Russia and Ukraine are engaged in what many are calling the first full-scale drone war — one that has gone on much longer than the Kremlin expected, in large part due to Western backing of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
It is believed that the Kremlin is planning ways to regain momentum and break the stalemate.
In his address on January 3, Zelenskyy said he expects Russia’s “current masters” will soon hit Ukraine hard “to turn the tide of the war and at least postpone their defeat.”
On New Year’s Day in Russia, after publicly meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping the evening before, Putin addressed the country. He said 2022 was a pivotal year that “la[id] the foundation for our common future, our true independence.”
“This is what we are fighting for today, protecting our people on our own historical territories in the new constituent entities of the Russian Federation,” Putin said. “Together we build and create.”