Dozens of Russian soldiers have been killed in Ukraine’s first-ever strike on one of Putin’s command posts using US long-range missile artillery, Kyiv says.
At least 40 of Moscow’s men died after Ukrainian troops used an American HIMARS system to blow up a base near the city of Izyum in Donbas, commanders said.
Footage which emerged on Sunday showed the aftermath of the attack, including blown-out buildings and smouldering supply trucks painted with the ‘Z’ war symbol.
Separately, it was revealed the same weapon system killed a Russian colonel, making him the 56th top officer to be killed during the war.
Andrei Vasilyev, 49, commander of an elite VDV paratrooper regiment, died in a strike in an unknown location on Friday night, local media said.
Ukraine claims to have destroyed a Russian military base in Izyum, Donbas, using an American HIMARS launcher in the first attack of its kind
Video shows blown-out buildings and burning cars following the strike, which Kyiv claims killed 40 Russian soldiers
Colonel Andrei Vasilyev, 49, who commanded the 137th Guards Airborne Regiment of elite VDV paratroopers, was killed in a HIMARS strike in Ukraine
Vasilyev, who had previously been awarded the Russian Order of Courage, led the 137th Guards Airborne Regiment of the 106th Guards Airborne Division.
He leaves behind a wife and a daughter, Russian media said.
Vasilyev’s death occurred the same night that footage first emerged of Ukrainian forces opening fire with HIMARS, with video also taken at night.
It is not clear whether the strike captured on film and the strike that killed Vasilyev were one and the same, but the timing of his death means he is almost certainly one of the first Russian officers to be killed by the weapon.
The strike on the Izyum command post is thought to have been a separate attack, although Ukraine has not said precisely when that happened.
Kyiv’s commanders said that attack blew up a school – Izyum Lyceum No 2 – which was being used as a base by Russian forces in the region.
They said at least 40 men, from the 20th Army of the Russian Armed Forces’ Western Military District, unit 89425, originally based in Voronezh, were killed.
‘All personnel stationed at the command post were demilitarised – over 40 people,’ claimed Ukraine.
Russia acknowledged the attack and admitted it had been carried out with HIMARS, but said it had actually hit a hospital and killed two civilians.
America began sending advanced long-range rocket artillery systems to Ukraine earlier this month after repeated requests from Kyiv, which said it needed the weapons to level the playing field with Russian batteries in the Donbas.
The systems are in demand for their ability to carry out precision strikes over long distances – more than double the range of the howitzers the West has already sent.
Footage of the strike’s aftermath emerged on Sunday, though it is unclear exactly when the strike took place. Ukraine has been using HIMARS systems since last week
Russia has acknowledge the strike and said it was carried out with HIMARS, but claims it actually struck a civilian hospital – killing two
Ukraine’s commanders said they intend to use the artillery systems to strike deep behind the Russian frontline, destroying command posts such as the one in Izyum while also blowing up arms dumps to hamper Moscow’s advance.
Training with the weapon systems began outside Ukraine on June 7, and the first batteries entered the country last week.
Footage, shot on an unknown date but circulated last week, showed a HIMARS battery opening fire late at night – striking an unknown target.
The America-made HIMARS systems are expected to be followed by British M270 MLRS launchers – a similar system which is less manoeuvrable but delivers a heavier payload which should arrive in the coming weeks.
The US and UK combined are thought to have pledged 11 HIMARS or MLRS to Ukraine, which President Zelensky has thanked them for while insisting his country needs more to win the war.
HIMARS and MLRS systems have wildly varying ranges and effects based on the type of projectile fired, which can range from precision-guided to cluster bombs.
Using ammunition provided by the West, it is thought Ukraine’s systems have a range of around 45 miles – compared to 20 miles for the M777 howitzer it is also using.
Joe Biden has ruled out sending the longest-range rocket with a range of some 300 miles, fearing Kyiv would use it to strike mainland Russia.
The Pentagon fears that would lead to an escalation in the war, and may drag NATO into the conflict.
Kyiv has also promised not to use the systems and ammunition it already has for strikes on Russian soil.
Footage emerged on Friday of Ukrainian forces attacking with a HIMARS battery somewhere in the east of the country, after America agreed to supply the weapons
HIMARS (file image) had been requested by Ukraine because it has more than double the range of current western-supplied artillery and can strike deep behind Russian frontlines