Criticism mounts in Russia as Ukrainian strike toll rises

Russia said Wednesday the toll climbed in its worst single reported loss from a Ukrainian strike, which an increasingly criticised Moscow blamed on troops using mobile phones.

The Ukrainian military's strategic communications unit has said nearly 400 Russian soldiers were killed in the town of Makiivka in eastern Ukraine, and even Russian commentators have said the death toll may be far higher than the 89 Russia has reported.

As Moscow grappled with the aftermath of the strike, France's President Emmanuel Macron told Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky that his country would send French-made light tanks to help repel the Russian invasion.

The death toll in Makiivka is the highest reported by the Russian military in a single strike since its troops invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

The deadly strike came after months of discontent within Russia towards the military following a series of battlefield defeats and a hugely unpopular mobilisation drive. Russia's defence ministry on Monday -- in an extremely rare admission -- said 63 soldiers had been killed.

On Wednesday, the ministry said the toll had climbed to 89 after more bodies were found under the rubble of the temporary base where the troops had been housed.

It announced a commission was working to clarify what happened and vowed that "guilty" officials would be punished. In a video, Lieutenant General Sergei Sevryukov said the tragedy had likely taken place because Russian troops had used cell phones, giving away their location to Ukrainian forces.

But some critics have said the military is trying to shift the blame, and Russian military correspondents have accused commanders of incompetence.

The strike also led to rare public displays of grief, including...

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