Here comes HIMARS: After months of Russian missile and drone strikes all across Ukraine, the Ukrainian military struck back on the first day of the year with a precision missile strike against a Russian concentration of troops.
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The Ukrainians Strike Back
On the first day of 2023, a Ukrainian long-range strike killed more than 60 Russian troops and wounded scores in the Donetsk province, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense.
The attack took place in the city of Makiivka, which is occupied by Russian forces. The Ukrainians used an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to target a vocational school turned into makeshift barracks.
According to the Russian military blogger community, the Russian military was using the makeshift barracks as an ammunition depot, and when the Ukrainian missile struck, the whole building exploded and then collapsed.
Moreover, the Russian military blogger community, which has been a fairly credible source of news from the Russian frontlines, said that the Ukrainian military used its electronic warfare capabilities to track the cellphones of Russian reservists who had recently deployed to the frontlines. Once they pinpointed their location, they launched the HIMARS missiles.
Militarily the strike won’t have a large impact on the war; politically and psychologically, however, the loss of so many troops in a single instance will further demoralize the Russian forces and population.
The Kremlin’s case for war in Ukraine continues to lose appeal as the months pass and the losses pile with nothing to show for it.
Even after more than ten months of war, the Ukrainian military continues to push the Russian forces hard all across the battlefield, looking for opportunities like this one to strike hard and inflict the largest number of casualties on the Russians.
The M142 HIMARS continues to prove to be one of the deadliest and most effective weapon systems of the entire conflict and a real game-changer. The U.S. military has provided or committed to providing almost 40 M142 HIMARS to Ukraine.
The Casualty Figures in Ukraine
So far, there isn’t a definite number of casualties. The Russian claim of 63 troops killed is bogus, like almost all other of the Kremlin’s statements on the war.
On the other side, the Ukrainian government is claiming that the strike killed hundreds of Russian troops. Neither side’s claims can be verified independently, but a number on either side of the spectrum would make the incident one of the deadliest attacks of the war so far.
Prominent Russian military bloggers, such as convicted war criminals and former paramilitary commander Igor Girkin, lean toward the Ukrainian estimates.
Additionally, the very fact that the Russian Ministry of Defense had to put out a public statement and provide a casualty figure suggests that the real number of losses is likely much higher than the reported 63.
It is also an attempt by the Kremlin to control the information space and shape the narrative around the incident.
With approximately 600 troops housed in the barracks, the actual casualty figure is likely closer to the Ukrainian estimates.
Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.