Kyiv rejects Russia’s claim on number of Ukrainian soldiers killed in Kramatorsk

(CNN) — Ukraine on Sunday rejected Moscow’s claim that a large number of Ukrainian soldiers were killed in a recent Russian attack on Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine.

“This is nonsense,” Serhii Cherevatyi, a spokesman for the Eastern Group of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, told CNN in response to the Russian claim.

A CNN team on the ground has seen no indication of many casualties in the area. There is no unusual activity in and around Kramatorsk, including in the vicinity of the city’s morgue, the team reported.

Earlier, Russia claimed that more than 600 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in a Russian attack on Kramatorsk carried out in “retaliation” for the Ukrainian attack on Russian-occupied Makiivka last week, according to a Russian Defense Ministry statement.

The Makiivka attack took place just after midnight on New Year’s Day and targeted a vocational school housing Russian recruits in Makiivka in the Donetsk region, according to Ukrainian and pro-Russian accounts.

At least 89 Russian soldiers were killed, a rare admission by Russia of a high death toll. The Ukrainian military reported even more dramatic figures, initially claiming that around 400 Russian soldiers were killed. CNN cannot independently verify the reported death toll from either party. In any case, the attack marks one of the deadliest episodes of the conflict for Moscow’s forces.

ukraine russia attacks

Workers remove rubble from a destroyed building that was supposed to be a vocational school used as temporary housing for Russian soldiers in Makiivka, Russian-controlled Ukraine on Wednesday. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

A rare public blame game broke out between the Russian government and some pro-Kremlin leaders and military experts after the attack, after Moscow appeared to blame cellphone use by its own soldiers.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that “the main cause” of an attack in the occupied city of Makiivka was the widespread use of cell phones by Russian soldiers, “contrary to the ban,” which allowed Ukraine to “track and Determine the coordinates of the soldiers’ locations.

But that account was angrily dismissed by an influential military blogger and implicitly contradicted by the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine, pointing to discord in the Russian command over Moscow’s response to the attack. .

CNN’s Rob Picheta and Mick Krever contributed reporting.

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