Ukraine: Army spokesman confirms Makiivka strike
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The Ukrainian leader revealed his hopes to “bring victory closer” in 2023 after speaking with the Prime Minister yesterday afternoon. In a tweet, he said they had discussed “further defence cooperation” in his country’s ongoing conflict with Russia.
And he added: “We agreed to intensify our efforts to bring victory closer this year already. We already have concrete decisions for this.”
Mr Sunak assured Mr Zelensky that Ukraine could “count on the UK to continue to support it for the long term” and would remain in close touch.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The leaders discussed the abhorrent drone attacks on Ukraine in recent days, and the Prime Minister said the thoughts of the UK were with the Ukrainian people as they continued to live under such bombardment.
“The Prime Minister said Ukraine could count on the UK to continue to support it for the long term, as demonstrated by the recent delivery of more than 1000 anti-air missiles.
“Work was also underway to provide further equipment in the coming weeks and months to secure Ukraine’s victory on the battlefield,” the Prime Minister added.
“Discussing the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) summit in Latvia last month, the Prime Minister thanked the President for joining virtually and said the UK and JEF partners were working closely to provide the vital equipment requested.
“The leaders agreed to stay in close touch in the coming weeks.”
But Mr Zelensky also earlier issued a stark warning to his beleaguered nation that Russia is planning to ‘exhaust’ Ukraine with prolonged drone and rocket attacks throughout the bitter Winter months and beyond.
The alert came as Vladimir Putin was coming under pressure from hawkish nationalists to start seeking revenge for the death of 400 Russian soldiers, killed in a Ukrainian missile attack on the occupied Donetsk region.
Moscow admits more than 60 lost their lives, but Kyiv puts the figure at 400.
As fears over a massive Russian land assault grow,
Ukraine’s president warned that Putin is planning a protracted campaign of drone attacks in a bid to demoralise Ukraine.
In a televised address, Mr Zelensky said he had received intelligence reports suggesting that Moscow would launch the attacks using Iranian-made Shahed drones.
Speaking from the underfire capital Kyiv, the President said Russia was planning to “exhaust” Ukraine with a prolonged wave of drone attacks.
“We must ensure – and we will do everything for this – that this goal of terrorists fails like all the others,” he warned.
“Now is the time when everyone involved in the protection of the sky should be especially attentive.”
Russian drone strikes on Ukraine have increased in recent days, with Moscow launching attacks on cities and power stations across the country over the past three nights.
Mr Zelensky said Ukrainian air defences had already shot down over 80 Iranian-made drones in the opening days of 2023.
But Russia has been targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure for several months, destroying power stations and plunging millions into darkness during the country’s freezing winter.
Elsewhere, Ukraine has confirmed it carried out a strike in the occupied region of Donetsk, which it earlier claimed killed 400 Russian troops.
Russian officials contested the figure, saying only 63 troops were killed.
Neither claim has been verified, and access to the site is restricted.
But there is no doubt that the Ukrainian attack on New Year’s Day hit a building in the city of Makiivka, where Russian forces were stationed.
Yesterday, there were growing calls from Russian nationalists and lawmakers for revenge.
They also demanded punishment for commanders they accused of ignoring dangers after one of the Ukraine war’s deadliest attacks.
Russia said 63 Russian soldiers were killed during the Ukrainian attack in occupied Makiivka, Donetsk region, while Ukraine said the Russian death toll was in the hundreds.
It is extremely rare for Moscow to confirm any battlefield casualties.
But it was such a deadly attack, military experts said that staying silent simply was not an option.
And the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said that up to 10 units of Russian military equipment in Makiivka were damaged or destroyed in the attack.
It is the highest number of deaths acknowledged by Moscow in a single incident since the war began ten months ago.
Russia’s defence ministry said Ukrainian forces fired six rockets using the US-made Himars rocket system at a building housing Russian troops. Two of them were shot down, it added.
Igor Girkin, a pro-Russian commentator, also admitted that hundreds had been killed and wounded, although the exact number was unknown because of the large number still missing.
The building itself was “almost completely destroyed”, he added.
It is believed that the victims were mainly mobilised troops – that is, recent conscripts, rather than those who chose to fight. He also said ammunition was stored in the same building as the soldiers, making the damage worse.
“Almost all of the military equipment was also destroyed, which stood right next to the building without any disguise whatsoever,” he wrote on Telegram.
According to the Ukrainian military’s earlier statement, 300 were wounded in addition to the estimated 400 killed.
A later statement from the Ukrainian military’s general staff said “up to 10 units of enemy military equipment” were “destroyed and damaged” in the strikes, and that “the losses of personnel of the occupiers are being specified”.
Meanwhile, as Russia continues to struggle on the battlefield, the UK’s Ministry of Defence yesterday said tilt was unlikely Kremlin forces will achieve a “significant breakthrough near Bakhmut in the coming weeks.”
In its daily intelligence briefing, the MoD said Russian troops and Wagner Group mercenaries had increased their attacks in recent weeks, but many of these operations were “poorly supported”.
Bakhmut, an embattled city in Ukraine’s east, has seen fierce fighting as Moscow seeks to capture the entire wider Donetsk region.
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