Russia has said 63 of its troops were killed in a Ukrainian New Year’s Eve attack on a makeshift barracks in the partially occupied Donetsk region.

The ministry said in a statement Monday that the Ukrainian military had fired six projectiles at the “provisional base” in the eastern city of Makiivka using the US-supplied guided missile system HIMARS.

Two of the missiles were shot down by Russian air defenses, it added, but four hit the building.

The ministry’s statement came after the Strategic Communications Department of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said late Sunday that 400 Russian troops were killed in the attack and another 300 were injured.

Footage posted online shows a building believed to be a vocational school in Russian-controlled Makiivka reduced to smoldering rubble.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the images or the numbers from either side. If Ukraine’s count is confirmed, the toll would be one of the deadliest attacks on Russian troops since Moscow launched its invasion in late February.

Moscow-backed authorities in Donetsk also acknowledged casualties in the attack.

Daniil Bezsonov, a senior official in the region supported by Russia, said the vocational school was hit by HIMARS missiles one minute after midnight on Saturday.

“There were deaths and injuries,” Bezsonov said in a message to the Telegram messaging app late on Sunday. “The exact number is still unknown. The building itself is badly damaged.”

Igor Girkin, a former Federal Security Service officer who helped Russia annex Crimea’s Black Sea peninsula in 2014 and subsequently organize pro-Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, said on Monday that “the number of dead and wounded amount to many hundreds”.

Girkin, who has sharply criticized Russia’s military failures in Ukraine, said ammunition was stored in the same building that housed the recruits.

“This is not the only one [extremely dense] deployment of personnel and equipment in the destruction zone of HIMARS missiles,” he said on Telegram.

Russian bombing

The developments were reported against the background of a recent spate of Russians bombings of Ukrainian cities. Moscow entered the new year with nocturnal attacks in urban areas hundreds of kilometers from the front lines of the war, including Kiev.

After firing a barrage of missiles on Saturday, Russia launched dozens of Iranian-made Shahed attack drones on Sunday and Monday. Ukraine said on Monday it had shot down all 39 drones in the latest wave of attacks, including 22 over the capital.

Ukrainian officials said the intensified bombing was a sign of Russia’s desperation, as Ukraine’s ability to defend its airspace had improved with continued military support from its Western allies.

“Now they are looking for routes and trying to hit us somehow, but their terror tactics will not work,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak told Telegram. “Our sky will turn into a shield.”

Zelensky on Sunday praised the Ukrainians for showing gratitude to their troops and each other and said Russia’s efforts would prove futile.

“Drones, missiles, anything else will not help them because we are united,” Zelenskyy said. “They are united only by fear.”

Russia says its attacks, which have knocked millions of Ukrainians out of heat and power in the winter, aim to reduce Ukraine’s ability to fight. The Ukrainian government says the attacks have no military purpose and are war crimes designed to harm civilians.

Russia’s war in Ukraine, the largest in Europe since World War II, has killed tens of thousands of people, displaced millions from their homes and left large swathes of the country in ruins.

Despite the increasing bloodshed, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country’s offensive will not end, and Moscow recently peace plan put forward by Zelenskyy.

from Zelensky 10 point proposal calls on Russia to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine and to withdraw all its troops from its country.

But the Kremlin insists Kiev must accept Russia’s annexation of four partially occupied Ukrainian regions — Luhansk and Donetsk in the east and Kherson and Zaporizhia in the south — which Moscow unilaterally claimed as its own in September.

Russia also says Ukraine must accept the loss of Crimea.



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