At least 63 Russian troops were killed by Ukrainian strikes in the Donetsk region on Monday, the Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement Monday confirming one of the deadliest, most effective attacks by Ukrainian forces since the war began in February.
The Kremlin said that the attacks near the city of Makiivka in eastern Ukraine were launched by the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, which the Biden administration has given to the Ukrainian military as part of its ongoing aid program. The use of HIMARS in such a deadly attack against Russian troops surely will ratchet up tensions between Moscow and Washington, as Russian officials already argue that Washington and its NATO allies are a party to the conflict by equipping Kyiv with lethal arms.
Ukrainian troops launched six rockets from the HIMARS, the Kremlin said in its statement. Two of them were shot down and the other four apparently reached their targets.
Ukrainian officials said that the attacks struck a vocational school in Makiivka where Russian troops were stationed. They also said that about 400 Russians were killed in the attacks.
Those claims could not be independently verified by reporters on the ground in the Donetsk region, and the Russian statement did not mention the school, but a pro-war Russian military blogger also said on Telegram that the death toll was likely to rise substantially.
The attack on the coal-mining town comes after days of intense Russian rocket and drone attacks against civilian targets across Ukraine, including in the capital of Kyiv. City officials in Kyiv said that Russian forces launched 40 drones toward the capital city late Sunday into Monday, but all of them were destroyed.
Hours before the strike on Russian positions in Donetsk, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense predicted eventual victory over the country’s foe.
“Russians, no matter how much you drink over the holidays, even through the haze of your severe hangover you are still going to face the bitter reality — Ukraine’s victory is inevitable,” the ministry said in a Twitter post late Sunday.
• This story is based in part on wire service reports.