Russians demand Putin’s commanders be punished over losses in New Year’s Eve attack

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Russian nationalists and politicians are calling for the punishment of military commanders in charge of the scores of troops killed in a Ukrainian attack on New Year’s Eve.

The commanders were accused of having ignored clear danger after the Kremlin on Monday took the rare step of admitting to losses in a strike on a makeshift barracks in occupied eastern Ukraine which killed at least 63 soldiers – among the deadliest strikes against Vladimir Putin’s forces in 10 months of war.

Russian military bloggers who closely follow the war said the extent of the destruction at Makiivka in the Donetsk region was a result of storing ammunition in the same building where troops stayed, despite commanders knowing it was within range of Ukrainian rockets.

Rybar, a blogger with more than one million followers, accused commanders of “criminal naivety”, while Archangel Spetznaz Z, a blogger with more than 700,000 followers, said commanders “couldn’t care less” if they store ammunition dangerously, adding: “Each mistake has a name.”

Bloggers gave far higher figures for the number of troops killed, leaning closer to Ukraine’s report of 400 deaths in Makiivka than the Kremlin’s official count for the strike.

The anger was also felt by politicians. Sergei Mironov, a legislator and former chair 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”.

Andrey Medvedev, deputy speaker of the Moscow City Duma and a pro-Kremlin journalist, said authorities must value Russian lives.

“Either a person is of the highest value – therefore punish stupid losses of personnel as treason to the fatherland – or the country is over,” Mr Medvedev said.

Grigory Karasin, a member of the Russian Senate and former deputy foreign minister, not only demanded vengeance against Ukraine and its Nato supporters but also “an exacting internal analysis”.

Workers remove debris of a destroyed building in Makiiva reported to have been used as a temporary barracks by Russian troops before a Ukrainian strike

Some of the dead came from his Samara in southwest Russia, regional governor Dmitry Azarov told Russian media, as he urged concerned relatives to contact recruitment centres for information.

A ceremony for the dead was held in Samara City’s Glory Square on Tuesday.

The strike came as Russia was launching what have become nightly waves of drone attacks on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities.

Ukraine almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine and president Volodymyr Zelensky did not address the Makiivka strike in his nightly speech on Monday.

However, the general staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported the Makiivka attack as “a strike on Russian manpower and military equipment”. It did not mention casualties.

Participants lay flowers in Glory Square in Samara, where some of the 63 troops declared dead were said to be from

The governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region, which along with neighbouring Donetsk forms the industrial Donbas claimed by Moscow, said on Tuesday Ukrainian forces had made steady advances in the direction of Russian-held Svatove and Kreminna.

“[Russian forces] are used to having a complete advantage in both artillery and shells. Now we have reached parity and our artillerymen are shooting better, hitting more ammunition depots and barracks, while firing far fewer shots,” Governor Serhiy Haidai told Ukrainian television.

Reuters contributed to this report