Up to 300 Russian soldiers killed or missing after Ukraine New Year’s Day strike, MoD says

The scene of the strike (AFP via Getty Images)
The scene of the strike (AFP via Getty Images)

A missile strike on Russian forces at Makiivka that Moscow claimed had killed 89 people was “highly likely” to have had more than 300 casualties, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on Saturday morning.

The case highlighted “the pervasive presence of disinformation in Russian public announcements”, the ministry said in its latest intelligence update.

The MoD wrote: “This typically comes about through a combination of deliberate lying authorised by senior leaders, and the communication of inaccurate reports by more junior officials, keen to downplay their failings in Russia’s ‘blame and sack’ culture.

The ministry said that after the strike on Russian troop accommodation near Donetsk city on 1 January, Russia’s defence ministry took the “rare step” of publicly acknowledging it had suffered casualties, claiming 89 killed.

“Russian officials likely assessed that it was not viable to avoid comment in the face of widespread criticism of Russian commanders over the incident,” the UK ministry said.

Of the casualties, the ministry said it believed the majority were likely killed or missing, rather than wounded.

It comes after the European Union’s defence chief said Russia is now engaged in “a war against Nato and the West”.

Stefano Sannino, the secretary general of the EU’s external action service, suggested Vladimir Putin had moved beyond his initial “special military operation” and was “moving the war into a different stage”.

Mr Sannino was speaking as Canada became the latest country to pledge tanks and Poland said it would give an additional 60 to the 14 it has already committed to the war effort.

Spain and Norway are expected to announce how many Leopard 2s they will send to Ukraine in the coming days.

Belgium announced a new package of military aid, promising cash, missiles, machineguns and armoured vehicles, but had to admit it has no main battle tanks to match the offers from its Nato allies.

Ukraine is also seeking Western fourth-generation fighter jets such as the US F-16, although this remains an unlikely prospect.