Outrage in Moscow as Massive Ukrainian Artillery Strike Kills 89 Personnel in Donbas Barracks

A Ukrainian strike on January 1 has killed 89 Russian military personnel, according to a report by the Russian Defence Ministry on December 4, after six rounds from U.S.-supplied HIMARS rocket artillery systems struck a temporary barracks in the Donetsk region. Formerly a self proclaimed people’s republic, Donetsk is claimed by Kiev and internationally recognised as part of Ukraine but was formally absorbed into the Russian state in September placing it at the centre of the ongoing conflict between the two countries. The facility targeted was a temporary housing area used by Russian personnel in the city of Makeyevka, with the first rockets striking at precisely 00:01am on January 1. The timing may indicate that the attack was timed in part to send a message to Moscow. The Russian Defence Ministry claimed that HIMARS launchers used for the attack were destroyed in retaliatory strikes, although this remains unconfirmed. Regarding the reason for the vulnerability of Russian forces, Lieutenant General Sergey Sevryukov from the Russian Armed Forces’ Main Military-Political Directorate informed reporters that it was “already obvious that the main reason for what happened was the turning on and mass use mobile phones by personnel – contrary to the ban – within the range of enemy weapons” which allowed Ukrainian forces to pinpoint their coordinates. It has been speculated that lax enforcement on bans on communications during New Years celebrations could have been key to facilitating the attack and explained its timing. The attack is the latest of several Ukrainian victories to stir public outrage in Russia since the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian War in late February.

Ukraine is reportedly benefitting from access to a network of several hundred NATO satellites to support its war effort against Russian forces, which alongside support from Western advisors and combatants on the ground has been key to allowing it to make effective use of precision guided weaponry in the Donbas. Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine General Valery Zaluzhny stated in December that Russian forces had adapted to HIMARS strikes, which were proving less effecting with time, although the extent to which this has been achieved remains in question. A primary advantage of the HIMARS system over Russian equivalents is its access to a much greater amount of intelligence, with Russia’s own satellite network and surveillance assets being more limited than those of NATO states collectively. Russia has partly compensated by enhancing its strike capabilities with a range of new drone designs, which Western and Ukrainian sources have widely claimed were sourced from Iran and which have been relied on heavily to provide a coutnerstrike capability. Russia has used its higher end indigenous surface to surface assets such as Iskander ballistic missiles more sparingly, with these systems relied on heavily to ensure the country’s security in the case of a wider war with NATO member states.