- Russia said a Ukrainian HIMARS strike in the occupied Donetsk region of Ukraine killed dozens of its soldiers.
- The Russians say 89 soldiers were killed and accuse their own troops of using cellphones.
- According to the Russians, these cellphone signals revealed the position of their soldiers.
Russia’s Defense Ministry says many of its soldiers died in a recent Ukrainian attack in the Donetsk region because the soldiers were using cellphones and revealing their location.
On New Year’s Eve, Russian troops were attacked in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian town of Makiivka. The Russians say they were hit by Ukrainian troops equipped with US-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers.
But in a statement on the Defense Ministry’s Telegram channel on Tuesday, the Russians accused their own soldiers of “allowing the enemy to locate and determine the coordinates of the location of military personnel to launch a strike of missiles”.
“It is already clear that the main reason for what happened was the switching on and massive use – contrary to the ban – by personnel of mobile phones in an area within range of enemy weapons”, indicates the press release from the Russian Defense Ministry.
On Tuesday, Russia said 63 of its soldiers had died in the New Year’s strike by Ukrainian forces. The Ministry of Defense statement on Telegram reported a subsequent death toll of 89.
The Ukrainian military reported a higher number of Russian casualties from the attack – around 400 – but this figure has not been independently verified.
The use of mobile phones on the battlefield by Russian soldiers has become a risk for Russian soldiers. But it has been a boon for Ukraine, which has used intercepted calls to locate Russian troops since the start of the war.
A New York Times investigation published last month found that Ukrainian forces discovered surges in frantic calls from foreign numbers and used them to locate Russian troops.
“We listened to Russian soldiers as they panicked and called out to friends and relatives,” a Ukrainian official told The Times. “They used regular phones to make decisions about their future moves.”
Kremlin officials did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.