Mourning and anger after the death of dozens of soldiers in Ukraine

Flowers and prayers: Russia held rallies on Tuesday to commemorate dozens of soldiers killed in strikes in eastern Ukraine, sparking a wave of criticism of the military.

In Russia, where the state authorities remain discreet about the military losses in Ukraine, unusually, about 200 people gathered at the site of some of the fallen soldiers in Samara (center) with the consent of the authorities.

Some laid flowers in front of an eternal flame in one of the city’s main squares before paying their respects, an AFP reporter saw.

According to local media, rallies were also held in other cities of the region, especially Togliatti and Syzran.

In a rare admission, Russia’s Defense Ministry acknowledged on Monday that 63 soldiers were killed in a New Year’s Eve strike on a Ukrainian assembly building in the Russian-occupied town of Makivka in Donetsk region, which Moscow claims annexed. . Kyiv gives birth to a higher balance sheet.

The casualties, among Moscow’s heaviest in an offensive since the offensive against Ukraine began on February 24, drew criticism from nationalist commentators who favored military intervention.

The fact that the slain soldiers were mobilized reservists added to the emotion.

– “Revenge” –

“I haven’t slept for three days,” said Samara Yekaterina Kolotovkina, the wife of the Russian general and the head of the women’s committee close to the army.

“For the first time since the start of the special military operation, I asked (my husband) to take revenge on us, for the tears of mothers, for the inconsolable widows, for the orphans.”

A Telegram group claiming to be made up of Russian “widows of soldiers” called on Vladimir Putin on Monday to launch a “large-scale mobilization” to “save” Russia.

The Russian president himself has not yet reacted to the attack in Makivka, which was announced in the middle of the week of the Orthodox Christmas holiday, during the traditional joyous times when Russians meet their families.

The Kremlin revealed only on Tuesday that it had ordered Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to submit a report on the state of equipment provided to Russian troops in Ukraine and “measures” to be taken to strengthen them.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the missiles that hit Makiivka were fired by the HIMARS rocket launcher system, a weapon provided to Ukrainian forces by the United States.

The carnage sparked a new peak of anger and calls for punishment after Moscow’s defeats in Kharkiv (northeast) and Kherson (south) in recent months drew criticism from Russia’s military command. .

Mikhail Matveyev, the communist deputy elected in Samara, “Will there be results? Who will be punished?”

Several commentators in favor of the military intervention, which has been widely followed on social media, have objected to the possibility of ammunition being stored in a building housing soldiers, in particular.

The Rybar Telegram account, which has more than a million subscribers, criticized the “criminal naivete” that led them to place it next to this ammunition depot.

Others pointed out that the military was stationed in an ordinary, unprotected building, and complained that information about the whereabouts of Russian soldiers, especially the geolocation of their phones, regularly reached the Ukrainian army.

– “Every house, a castle” –

In turn, Ukrainians said that they have faced several attacks since the New Year.

On Monday, Kyiv again came under fire from Iranian-made drones, but most of them were shot down, officials said. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy claimed that his army destroyed more than 80 planes in total.

Oleg Sinogubov, the governor of Kharkiv region (north-east) noted on Monday evening that the second largest city of Ukraine and its region were targeted by Russian missiles.

The fiercest battles are taking place around the city of Bakhmut (in the east), which is not of any strategic importance, but which Russian forces led by the Wagner mercenary group have been trying to capture for months.

The head of this organization, Yevgeny Prigogine, a businessman close to Vladimir Putin, admitted that the situation there is serious.

In an interview with Russia’s Ria-Novosti news agency on Tuesday, he said that sometimes his people “fight for weeks to (buy) a house.”

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