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Putin Knows His War in Ukraine Is Falling Apart Fast

HIMARS. Image Credit: British Army.

Russia Blames Soldier Carelessness for Deadly Rocket Attack in Ukraine – It is difficult to get any soldier to refrain from using a personal cell phone during downtimes in a war. But now it appears that cell phone use has become deadly. Ukrainian forces were reportedly able to target a building using mobile phone geolocation that housed Russian troops in a strike that killed dozens on New Year’s Day right after midnight.

The Russia Defense Ministry admitted that at least 25 rockets from a Ukrainian HIMARS battery killed 89 Russian soldiers in what is appearing to be the single most deadly incident for the Russians in the war. Ukraine believes that the death toll was in the hundreds.

HIMARS Strikes Again 

The Russian personnel were resting in a vocational school building in the eastern Donetsk town of Makiivka when their location was tracked by Ukraine. HIMARS rockets then rained down on the location completely destroying the building.

A Russian general said that cell phone use was “unauthorized” and widespread. The soldiers were warned the enemy could find them should they use the devices.

Critics of the war in Russia pointed to this latest incident as evidence the fighting is going poorly. The victims were conscripts not used to being near the frontlines and unaware of the risks involved with using mobile devices near a war zone.

Even the Most Loyal Russian Writers Are Becoming Frustrated

One pro-Russian blogger became frustrated at the government’s version of events, and he maintained that the targeting could have been conducted by Ukrainian drones or other spotting mechanisms. Semyon Pegov who usually reveals news that is favorable to the occupiers said the defense ministry’s story is “not convincing” and a “blatant attempt to smear blame.”

Pegov believes the death toll is more than what the Russian defense officials are reporting.

Soldiers Resting Near an Ammo Facility

Other independent writers criticized the choice of the location of the building, stating that it was near an ammunition dump that made the explosions more powerful killing additional soldiers.

The military is still not used to the HIMARS rockets that can attack deeply into the Russian lines, often hitting logistics and supply areas. U.S.-provided HIMARS has given the Ukrainians surprise, momentum, and initiative in the war.   

Ukraine Is Showing It Is Better at Electronic Warfare 

This latest attack shows that Ukraine is using advanced tactics to beat Russia on the battlefield. The targeting of the building was likely sniffed out by the use of commercial off-the-shelf advanced electronic warfare gear provided to the Ukrainian side by a nonprofit organization.

Nonprofit Supplied Gear Making a Difference 

The system is called Software Defined Radio and it can detect enemy radio communication including 5G cell phone conversations and Bluetooth to pinpoint their location. Software Defined Radio is also used against enemy drones and command centers.

The system is usually expensive and out of the reach of the Ukrainian military, but now the American Ukrainian Aid Foundation out of New York is making the kits available to the defenders. The kits can be programmed at the front with software to sense different kinds of radio systems and then that targeting data can be fed to HIMARS rocket launchers.

Asymmetric Warfare At Its Finest

This is another example of the Ukrainian military ingenious use of asymmetric warfare in a David versus Goliath scenario that Russia never figured it would face during the war. How will Russian forces communicate if their transmission locations are tracked, pinpointed, and attacked?

The longer this war lasts, the more adept the Ukrainian fighters are becoming with help from the West, not only from allied governments but by nonprofits that are getting advanced gear to the front – sometimes quicker than official means.

Russia will need to adjust the way they are communicating and only use radio transmission for short periods of time and refrain from personal cell phone use.

The more they rely on inexperienced conscripts who are not sophisticated in electronic warfare, the more they will succumb to dangerous HIMARS and conventional artillery attacks.

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Author Expertise and Experience: Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.