Sixty-three Russian troops were killed in eastern Ukraine as Kyiv forces struck a camp using US-supplied Himars Rocket Systems, the Russian defence ministry announced on Monday.
Without claiming the strike, Ukraine’s military said the death toll from a strike in the town of Makiivka in the Moscow-controlled part of the eastern region of Donetsk was much higher.
“As a result of a strike by four missiles with a high-explosive warhead on a temporary deployment point, 63 Russian servicemen were killed,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
“All the necessary assistance and support will be provided to the relatives and loved ones of the deceased servicemen,” the defence ministry said.
The statement was an extremely rare announcement of Russian losses in Ukraine.
The defence ministry did not say when the strike took place, but Ukrainian forces are believed to have struck as Russian troops rang in the New Year.
It was the biggest loss of life reported by the Russian side so far in a conflict that has dragged on since President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to invade on February 24 last year.
Kremlin critics accuse Russian authorities of downplaying losses on the battlefield in Ukraine.
Former Russian separatist leader Igor Strelkov said he received a report about the strike about 1am on January 1 (2200 GMT on December 31).
He said “hundred’’ have been killed and wounded, adding the Ukrainian army struck a facility that housed mobilised troops.
Fresh Russian strikes on New Year
Russian strikes in different parts of Ukraine on New Year’s Eve and New Year's Day killed at least five people.
The Ukrainian capital again came under fire from Iranian-made drones on Monday, although Ukrainian forces claimed the majority were shot down by air defences.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported an explosion in northeastern Kyiv and said emergency services were dispatched.
“An injured 19-year-old man was hospitalised in the Desnyanskyi district of the capital,” he said.
Authorities later said he was hit by the falling debris.
Following the strikes, the power company Ukrenergo said the situation with the electricity supply in Kyiv was now “more complicated”.
Russia’s New Year assaults — which targeted downtown areas of large cities — show a change in tactics, said an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“Russia no longer has any military goals and is trying to kill as many civilians as possible and destroy more civilian facilities,” Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted. “A war to kill.”