Russian missiles struck a group of Ukrainian soldiers at an awards ceremony in southern Ukraine, killing some and injuring others, two senior Ukrainian military officials said Sunday.
One of the military officials, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to release information, said two missiles were fired in succession Friday morning as soldiers from the 128th Assault Brigade in the mountains gathered in the village of Zarichne, near the front line. the Zaporizhzhia region. The soldiers were there to mark Artillery Day, one of several days in Ukraine that honor branches of the military.
It was not possible to independently confirm the number of casualties or the nature of the strike.
In a statement posted on Facebook on Saturday evening, the Ukrainian military said Russia had launched “sneak attacks” on 26 settlements in Zaporizhzhia and targeted personnel of the 128th brigade with a missile, “resulting in the deaths of servicemen and civilians.” injuries of varying degrees among local residents. .” He did not give further details.
Viktor Mykyta, head of the military administration of Transcarpathia, the western region where many members of the brigade come from, confirmed the strike and the deaths, and called for three days of mourning. “I recommend visiting churches and praying for our defenders,” he said on the messaging app Telegram.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that its forces were active in the Zaporizhzhia region, but did not directly refer to a strike in Zarichne.
Ukraine and Russia have suffered significant losses in fighting since Ukraine launched a counteroffensive in June to regain ground in the south and east. Both sides detail enemy losses in their daily reports, but it is highly unusual for either side to disclose its own losses.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said on Facebook late Saturday that he had ordered an investigation into the Zarichne attack, adding: “Our enemy is an insidious terrorist.”
It is unclear why Ukrainian authorities decided to speak publicly about the strike, but it would at least partly reflect the seriousness of the episode.
This follows the recognition by the commander of the Ukrainian armed forces, General Valery Zaluzhny, that his troops were stuck in a stalemate with Russia along the front line, with no imminent prospect of a breakthrough.
The comments, made in an interview published last week in the British magazine The Economist, were unusually frank.
President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office on Saturday criticized Gen. Zaluzhny for his comments, and while the commander has not responded publicly, both remarks suggest a potential division within Ukraine’s top civilian and military leadership at a difficult time for the country’s war effort.
The lack of a decisive battlefield victory, coupled with military losses like Friday’s, poses a strategic test for the Ukrainian government, particularly at a time when some congressional Republicans have argued that the U.S. should stop sending him military aid.
In his speech on Saturday, Mr. Zelensky made no reference to the 128th brigade, although he thanked “all those who dedicated their lives to ensuring Ukraine’s endurance.”