The relatives of the Russian soldiers who were killed in the New Year’s Eve strike on a Russian base in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province do not believe their government’s account of the incident, they revealed to journalists.
While Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed that the Ukrainian attack carried out between Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 on a vocational school in the occupied city of Makiivka resulted in 89 deaths, the relative of one of the deceased Russian soldiers told the BBC’s Russian service that they believe there were more fatalities.
“Judging logically, if there were 500 to 600 people there, and four rockets hit there and the building was demolished down to its foundation, it’s clear that it wasn’t 89 people [who died] but at least 200,” the relative said.
The Ukrainian military claimed that up to 400 Russian soldiers died as a result of the attack on Professional Technical School No. 19, but a mobilized soldier who took part in clearing operations following the strike said he saw about 200 bodies.
Relatives and acquaintances of the dead soldiers also do not believe the Russian Ministry of Defense’s claim that the troopers’ use of mobile phones resulted in the successful Ukrainian strike.
“The truth is they all got rid of their Russian SIM cards when they were still in Rostov, on the way to Makiivka, and then their commander took them to a special spot where they could buy Ukrainian SIM cards. They were using those to talk to us on Telegram,” one relative said, according to a translation provided by the independent outlet Meduza.
Security forces have allegedly started to work with the mobile phones of the deceased soldiers in an attempt to establish evidence for the Russian Defense Ministry’s claim.
In addition to lying, the Russian government was also withholding information regarding the incident, the soldiers’ families alleged.
“No one will tell you anything. Everyone’s lips are sealed. All the guys unanimously tell their mothers not to believe what they say on TV. I think everything is clear and fairly crazy. I feel sorry for the guys who died for nothing. Their mothers are suffering,” the sister of a soldier who survived the strike said.
Meanwhile, some relatives were afraid to talk to journalists because “cases of blackmailing families by Ukraine are not uncommon,” the son of one of the deceased soldiers claimed.