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Russia Blames Troops' Use of Mobile Phones in Deadly New Year's Attack


Workers clean rubbles after a Ukrainian rocket strike in Makiivka, in Russian-controlled Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023.
Workers clean rubbles after a Ukrainian rocket strike in Makiivka, in Russian-controlled Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023.

Russian troops' "massive use" of mobile phones led to Ukraine's deadly New Year's Day strike on military barracks in a Moscow-controlled city in eastern Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry said early Wednesday local time.

"It is already obvious that the main reason for what happened was the switching on and massive use — contrary to the prohibition — by personnel of mobile phones in a reach zone of enemy weapons," the ministry said in a statement.

"This factor allowed the enemy to track and determine the coordinates of the soldiers' location for a missile strike," it added.

Ukraine claimed responsibility for the strike in Makiivka on Monday. Russian forces control the town and had turned a school into military quarters.

Russian Lieutenant General Sergei Sevryukov said in a video statement released by the ministry early Wednesday that the death toll had risen to 89, from 63 announced Monday. He said more bodies had been found under the rubble of the building, Agence France-Presse reported.

"A commission is working to investigate the circumstances of what has happened," he said.

Russian war correspondents said the soldiers in the Makiivka quarters consisted largely of newly mobilized Russians, according to AFP. They added the soldiers were stationed in an unprotected building that was destroyed because ammunition stored on the premises detonated in the strike.

On Tuesday, mourners gathered in several cities of the Volga region of Samara — where some of the servicemen came from.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address Tuesday that his country needs to strengthen its defenses. He has claimed for the past two days what he sees as Russia's plans for a new offensive.

"We have no doubt that the current masters of Russia will throw everything they have left and everyone they can muster to try to turn the tide of the war and at least postpone their defeat," he said. "We have to disrupt this Russian scenario. We are preparing for this."

On Monday, Zelenskyy said during his nightly video address that his government has information that Russia is planning "a prolonged attack" with the Shahed drones it has used in recent months to crash into targets across Ukraine.

Zelenskyy said Russia may be betting on the "exhaustion of our people, our air defense, our energy sector," as he praised those involved in defending Ukraine from the aerial attacks.

The Russian military on Tuesday claimed strikes on Druzhkivka and Kramatorsk, also in Donetsk. The Defense Ministry claimed it destroyed four HIMARS launchers in the area. The Associated Press could not independently verify the claim.

Ukrainian officials said the latest strikes from Russian missiles and artillery hit the city of Druzhkivka in the eastern Donetsk region, as well as Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine and Dnipropetrovsk in the southeastern part of the country.

Also on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to show in movie theaters documentary films dedicated to his assault on Ukraine and the fight against "neo-Nazi" ideology, AFP reported.

The Kremlin said in a statement that the Culture Ministry had until February 1 to implement the order.

Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, saying the pro-Western country needed to be "demilitarized" and "de-Nazified." The United States and Western allies have criticized the military action.

Putin ordered the Defense Ministry to help Russian filmmakers in producing documentaries dedicated to "the heroism of the participants of the special military operation," the Kremlin said, using Moscow's official term for the offensive.

In Ukraine, Kyiv's main security service said it was bringing criminal charges against two high-ranking Russian commanders accused of overseeing strikes against civilians, AP reported.

Sergei Kobylash, commander of Russia's long-range aviation force, and Igor Osipov, the former head of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, were charged under Ukrainian law with violating the country's territorial integrity and with "planning, preparing, initiating and conducting a war of aggression," crimes that carry a maximum sentence of life in prison, the Security Service of Ukraine said Tuesday on its website.

It is unlikely that Kyiv will be able to bring Kobylash and Osipov to trial anytime soon. However, the announcement marks the first time Ukrainian authorities have brought charges linked directly to attacks on residential areas and civilian infrastructure, AP reported.

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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