KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia’s defense ministry said Monday that 63 Russian soldiers have been killed by a Ukrainian strike on a facility in the eastern Donetsk region where military personnel were stationed. Ukrainian forces fired six rockets from a HIMARS launch system and two of them were shot down, according to a Russian defense ministry statement.
The strike, using a U.S.-supplied precision weapon that has proven critical in enabling Ukrainian forces to hit key targets, delivered a new setback for Russia which in recent months has reeled from a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
The Ukrainian military has not directly confirmed the strike, but tacitly acknowledged it. The Strategic Communications Directorate of Ukraine’s Armed Forces claimed Sunday that some 400 mobilized Russian soldiers were killed in a vocational school building in Makiivka and about 300 more were wounded. That claim could not be independently verified. The Russian statement said the strike occurred “in the area of Makiivka” and didn’t mention the vocational school.
Meanwhile, Russia deployed multiple exploding drones in another nighttime attack on Ukraine, officials said Monday, as the Kremlin signaled no letup in its strategy of using bombardments to target civilian infrastructure and wear down Ukrainian resistance to its invasion.
The barrage was the latest in a series of relentless year-end attacks, including one that killed three civilians on New Year’s Eve.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Monday that 40 drones “headed for Kyiv” overnight. All of them were destroyed, according to air defense forces.
Klitschko said 22 drones were destroyed over Kyiv, three in the outlying Kyiv region and 15 over neighboring provinces.
Energy infrastructure facilities were damaged as the result of the attack and an explosion occurred in one city district, the mayor said. It wasn’t immediately clear whether that was caused by drones or other munitions. A wounded 19-year-old man was hospitalized, Klitschko added, and emergency power outages were underway in the capital.
In the outlying Kyiv region a “critical infrastructure object” and residential buildings were hit, Gov. Oleksiy Kuleba said.
Russia has carried out airstrikes on Ukrainian power and water supplies almost weekly since October.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of “energy terrorism” as the aerial bombardments have left many people without heat amid freezing temperatures. Ukrainian officials say Moscow is “weaponizing winter” in its effort to demoralize the Ukrainian resistance.
Ukraine is using sophisticated Western-supplied weapons to help shoot down Russia’s missiles and drones, as well as send artillery fire into Russian-held areas of the country.
Moscow’s full-scale invasion on Feb. 24 has gone awry, putting pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin as his ground forces struggle to hold ground and advance. He said in his New Year’s address to the nation that 2022 was “a year of difficult, necessary decisions.”
Putin insists he had no choice but to send troops into Ukraine because it threatened Russia’s security — an assertion condemned by the West, which says Moscow bears full responsibility for the invasion.
Russia is currently observing public holidays through Jan. 8.
Drones, missiles and artillery shells launched by Russian forces also struck areas across Ukraine.
Five people were wounded in the Monday morning shelling of a Ukraine-controlled area of the southern Kherson region, its Ukrainian Gov. Yaroslav Yanushevich said on Telegram.
The Russian forces attacked the city of Beryslav, the official said, firing at a local market, likely from a tank. Three of the wounded are in serious condition and are being evacuated to Kherson, Yanushevich said.
Seven drones were shot down over the southern Mykolaiv region, according to Gov. Vitali Kim, and three more were shot down in the southeastern Dnipropetrovsk region, Gov. Valentyn Reznichenko said.
In the Dnipropetrovsk region, a missile was also destroyed, according to Reznichenko. He said that energy infrastructure in the region was being targeted.
Ukraine’s Air Force Command reported Monday that 39 Iranian-made exploding Shahed drones were shot down overnight, as well as two Russian-made Orlan drones and an X-59 missile.
“We are staying strong,” the Ukrainian defense ministry tweeted.
A blistering New Year’s Eve assault killed at least four civilians across the country, Ukrainian authorities reported, and wounded dozens. The fourth victim, a 46-year-old resident of Kyiv, died in a hospital on Monday morning, Klitschko said.
Multiple blasts rocked the capital and other areas of Ukraine on Saturday and through the night. The strikes came 36 hours after widespread missile attacks Russia launched Thursday to damage energy infrastructure facilities, and the unusually quick follow-up alarmed Ukrainian officials.
In Russia, a Ukrainian drone hit an energy facility in the Bryansk region that borders with Ukraine, Bryansk regional governor Alexander Bogomaz reported on Monday morning. A village was left without power as a result, he said.