Ukrainian strike on Russian base in Makiyivka causes significant criticism of Russian military leadership, says ISW

3 January, 03:50 PM
The ruins of a building in Makiyivka where Russian troops were stationed (Photo:РИА Новости / Телеграм)

The ruins of a building in Makiyivka where Russian troops were stationed (Photo:РИА Новости / Телеграм)

A devastating Ukrainian HIMARS strike on a Russian base in Makiyivka, Donetsk Oblast, on Dec. 31 generated significant criticism of Russia’s military leadership in the Russian information space, U.S. think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in a Jan. 2 report.

The ISW says such profound military failures will continue to complicate Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s efforts to appease the Russian pro-war community and retain the dominant narrative in the domestic information space.

According to ISW analysts, the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is likely attempting to deflect the blame for its poor operational security (OPSEC) onto “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DNR”) officials and mobilized forces.

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The ISW commented on Russia’s announced version that “DNR” law enforcement officials had told Russian state wires that the strike occurred when Russian servicemen violated operational security by using personal cell phones, allowing Ukrainian forces to conduct a precision strike at the base. Kremlin-leaning outlets and some military bloggers amplified the claim, stating that Russian forces should not underestimate the Ukrainian ability to exploit poor OPSEC practices on the frontlines and called on the Kremlin to introduce stricter guidelines on cell phone use among servicemen.

However, Wagner-affiliated milbloggers stated that Russian military command had made it easy for the Ukrainian forces to strike several hundred servicemen in one location, calling the “DNR” explanation of cell phone usage a “lie.” A former Russian officer had also stated that Russian forces stored ammunition in the school’s basement, enabling the devastating strike. Other milbloggers stated that the Russian command witnessed similar strikes throughout the past 11 months but were “criminally negligent” and failed to disperse the Russian forces quartered in Makiyivka into smaller groups further in the rear. Several milbloggers referred to a Putin statement about the necessity for the MoD to take accountability and listen to criticism on Dec. 21 while calling on the Kremlin to punish the commander responsible for the OPSEC failures.

According to the ISW, Russian sources claimed that Putin ordered the military and the Investigative Committee to probe into the Makiyivka “incident” by Jan. 6.

“Putin’s inability to address the criticism and fix the flaws in Russia’s military campaign may undermine his credibility as a hands-on war leader,” reads the report.

ISW previously reported on two other instances of mass milblogger criticism: the failed Russian river crossing in Bilohorivka in May 2022 and the botched Russian offensive operation on Pavlivka in October 2022.

The Strategic Communications Department of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported on Jan. 1 that the Ukrainian military hit the building of Vocational School No. 19 in Russia-occupied Makiyivka late on New Year’s Eve. Around 400 Russian soldiers were reportedly killed and another 300 wounded in the strike. The Russian MoD acknowledged the strike, claiming that four of the six rockets killed only 63 Russian servicemen.

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