Ukrainian officials on Sunday rejected Moscow’s claim that a large number of Kiev soldiers were killed in a Russian attack in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, last week.
“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 scene has seen no indication of mass casualties in the area. There is no unusual activity in and around Kramatorsk, including near the city’s morgue, the team reported.
A Reuters reporter in Kramtorsk also reported no signs of a significant Russian attack on two student flats that Russia said housed hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers.
“There were no obvious signs of soldiers living there and there were no signs of bodies or traces of blood,” the Reuters report said.
The mayor of Kramatorsk said there had been no casualties, according to Reuters.
Earlier, Russia claimed more than 600 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in a Russian attack in Kramatorsk carried out in “retaliation” for the Ukrainian attack on Russian-occupied Makiivka last week, according to a statement from the Russian defense ministry.
The Makiivka strike took place just after midnight on New Year’s Day and targeted a vocational school of Russian conscripts in Makiivka, Donetsk region, according to both Ukrainian and pro-Russian accounts.
Video shows moment of explosion at Russian ammunition depot in Luhansk
At least 89 Russian soldiers were killed – a rare Russian admission of a high death toll. The Ukrainian army reported even higher figures, initially claiming that about 400 Russian soldiers had been killed. CNN cannot independently verify the reported death toll from either side. In both cases, the attack marked one of the deadliest episodes of the conflict for Moscow’s troops.
In the aftermath of the strike, a rare public blame game erupted between the Russian government and some pro-Kremlin leaders and military pundits after Moscow appeared to blame cellphone use by its own soldiers.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said “the main cause” of the Makiivka attack was the widespread use of mobile phones by Russian soldiers, “in violation of the ban”, which allowed Ukraine to “track the coordinates of the soldiers’ locations and determine”.
But that account was angrily rejected 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 disagreements in the Russian command over Moscow’s response to the attack.