Ukraine's military rang in 2023 by shooting down dozens of Iranian attack drones fired by Russia and killing dozens of Russian soldiers in a rocket strike on a vocational school in the occupied city of Makiivka, in Donetsk province. Russia's military acknowledged the Makiivka strike, saying four precision rockets fired from a U.S.-provided HIMARS system left 89 soldiers dead, including a deputy regimental commander. Ukraine and Russian war correspondents said hundreds of Russian troops were killed.
Combined with two more artillery strikes on towns in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, Ukraine claims it killed or wounded about 1,200 Russian troops since Sunday, The New York Times reported Wednesday. "Militaries often exaggerate the losses of their enemies and downplay their own," but images and reports from local residents and Russian war bloggers, plus Russia's rare confirmation of heavy losses in Makiivka, lend some credence to Ukraine's numbers.
Ukraine's use of HIMARS, howitzers, and other long-range artillery on Russian barracks and other clusters of troops marks a shift in strategy, fueled by Russia's blunders, military analysts say. Previously, Ukraine's artillery mainly targeted ammunition depots and supply lines.
Russia says its troops gave away their location by using cellphones, but Ukraine and furious Russian military bloggers blame Russian commanders. "Of course, using phones with geolocation is a mistake," Ukrainian military spokesman Serhii Cherevatyi said Wednesday, but "to deploy such large batches of newly mobilized — which means not very trained, not very coordinated — people in large rooms unsuitable for sheltering in case of danger, is a very weak excuse."
Russia hasn't provided enough transport vehicles to house the new conscripts in diffuse areas, Ukrainian military commentator Serhiy Hrabsky said. "They need to concentrate them just to move them from point A to point B."
Meanwhile, the U.S. and its Western allies continue to provide Ukraine with more advanced armaments. On Wednesday, President Biden confirmed the U.S. is leaning toward sending over Bradley Fighting Vehicles and French President Emmanuel Macron told Ukraine it's donating AMX-10 RC armored vehicles. Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine's head of military intelligence, told ABC News that Kyiv is expecting the U.S. Bradleys.
Budanov declined to confirm Ukraine is behind a Dec. 26 attack on Russia's Engels Air Force Base, hundreds of miles from Ukraine's borders, but he said he expects similar attacks "deeper and deeper" inside Russia. He told ABC News that Ukraine will launch a major counteroffensive in March and predicted Ukraine will defeat the Russian invaders in 2023.