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Ukraine war latest: BBC reports Ukrainian HIMARS strike in occupied Donetsk Oblast kills dozens of Russian troops

by The Kyiv Independent news desk February 21, 2024 8:54 PM 8 min read
Ukrainian servicemen supervise an M142 HIMARS launching a rocket in the Bakhmut direction in Donetsk Oblast on May 18, 2023. Photo for illustrative purposes. (Serhii Mykhalchuk/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)
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Key updates on Feb. 21:

  • BBC reports Ukrainian HIMARS strike in occupied Donetsk Oblast kills dozens of Russian troops
  • Reuters: Iran supplies 'hundreds of ballistic missiles' to Russia
  • Russia used 2 Zircon hypersonic missiles in Feb. 7 attack, expert says
  • Report: North Korean missiles used by Russia against Ukraine contain US, European components
  • Ukraine denies Russia's claim that it captured village in Kherson Oblast

Ukrainian troops launched two HIMARS missiles against a Russian military training ground in occupied areas of Donetsk Oblast's Volnovakha district where Russian troops were stationed, killing at least 60, the BBC reported on Feb. 21, citing undisclosed sources.

Volnovakha and the surrounding areas were captured in March 2022 during the first weeks of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The attack took place during the day on Feb. 20 near the village of Trudivske, where units of the 36th Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade, commonly stationed in Russia's far east, were deployed, the Russian language service of the BBC said.

At the time of the strike, service personnel of the fourth, fifth, and sixth companies of this brigade were allegedly lined up at the training ground and awaiting the arrival of the commander of the 29th Army of the Eastern Military District, Major General Oleg Moiseev.

The news outlet said it had obtained more than 10 photographs and videos taken after the strike, showing dozens of dead. The BBC did not publish them for ethical reasons.

Serhii Bratchuk, spokesperson for the Odesa military administration, also shared the claims on his Telegram channel, publishing footage of what appear to be Russian soldiers killed in the attack.

Russian or other Ukrainian officials have not released official statements.

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Reuters: Iran supplies 'hundreds of ballistic missiles' to Russia

Iran has sent "a large number of powerful surface-to-surface ballistic missiles" to Russia, Reuters reported on Feb. 21, citing multiple sources.

Three Iranian sources told Reuters that Iran sent 400 missiles, including "many from the Fateh-110 family of short-range ballistic weapons," which have a range of up to 700 kilometers.

Russia overtook Iran as the most sanctioned country in the world following the launch of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Russia cooperates with Iran extensively on both military and political levels, as well as with other pariah states like Syria and North Korea.

The Wall Street Journal reported in early January that Russia was planning to buy short-range ballistic missiles from Iran. The U.S.-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) then reported on Jan. 15 that Russia and Iran are preparing to sign a treaty to further develop military-technological cooperation.

The missile shipments began in early January 2024 "after a deal was finalized in meetings late last year between Iranian and Russian military and security officials that took place in Tehran and Moscow," Reuters said, citing one source.

Another source, an anonymous Iranian military official, told Reuters that there had been "at least four shipments of missiles," with more planned in the coming weeks. The missiles are reportedly sent to Russia by plane and by ship across the Caspian Sea.

Kyiv has not yet registered any use of Iranian ballistic missiles by Russia, a source in the Ukrainian military told Reuters. Iran has provided Russia with thousands of Shahed kamikaze drones used in airstrikes against Ukraine and is helping Moscow build a drone factory in Russia.

Western and Ukrainian officials have confirmed the use of North Korean artillery shells and missiles used by Russian forces.

Russia has launched at least 24 North Korean missiles against Ukraine, Prosecutor General Andrii Kostin said on Feb. 16.

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Russia used 2 Zircon hypersonic missiles in Feb. 7 attack, expert says

Russia launched two 3M22 Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles during its large-scale attack against Ukraine on Feb. 7, Oleksandr Ruvin, director of the Kyiv Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Expertise, said in an interview with Vechirniy Kyiv on Feb. 21.

Ruvin said on Feb. 12 that there was preliminary evidence that Russia had deployed a Zircon missile for the first time since the full-scale invasion during the attack on Feb. 7, which killed six and injured over 50.

During the interview with Vechirniy Kyiv, Ruvin specified that air defense forces downed one Zircon missile, which then fell in the Dniprovskyi district on the city's east bank, while another was downed over Vysheve in Kyiv Oblast and fell in a field.

The Zircon hypersonic missile, designed as an anti-ship missile, entered the arsenal of the Russian military in early 2023.

Moscow claimed it has a range of 600–1,500 kilometers, can travel at nine times the speed of sound, and has a warhead weighing about 300-400 kilograms.

According to Ruvin, there is reason to doubt these claims. The missile flew at around 2,500 kilometers per hour on the final part of its flight, not at the 10,000 kilometers per hour as claimed by Russia, Ruvin told Vechirniy Kyiv.

"Secondly, there are great doubts about its accuracy. The missiles were hit by air defense and did not reach their targets," Ruvin said.

"We did not see the destructive power that an anti-ship missile with almost 400 kilograms of explosives should have," Ruvin said.

The missile "was developed primarily as a weapon against aircraft carriers, which are very difficult to sink." According to Ruvin, it is "unlikely" the missile could successfully sink an aircraft carrier.

"We continue to investigate the remains of this anti-ship missile" and find out more about its components, Ruvin said.

The two Zircon missiles were among the 44 Russian projectiles downed by Ukrainian air defenses on Feb. 7. As well as Kyiv, Russia targeted Lviv, Mykolaiv, Dnipropetrovsk, and Kharkiv oblasts.

Report: North Korean missiles used by Russia against Ukraine contain US, European components

A North Korean ballistic missile fired into Ukraine by the Russian military last month contained hundreds of components produced by companies in the U.S. and Europe, the Conflict Armament Research (CAR) organization announced in its February report.

CAR, an organization based in the U.K., studied missile remnants recovered from a Russian attack on the city of Kharkiv back in January. Not only did many of the recovered components display brands of companies based primarily in the U.S., but a large number of them were produced within the last three years.

Investigators determined that the North Korean ballistic missile included more than 290 non-domestic electronic components.

According to CNN, around 75% of the missile components were designed and sold in the United States, and 16% of components were linked to companies in Europe.

These foreign components mostly comprised the missile's navigation system, tracing back to 26 companies headquartered in the U.S., China, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Taiwan.

The CAR report does not name the specific companies linked to North Korean missiles as there is no evidence that they directly shipped weapons parts to the country. Instead, these components were likely rerouted somewhere along the global supply chain when the companies sold them to international distributors.

The CAR's findings also indicate that North Korea has been able to manufacture these ballistic missiles and swiftly export them to Russia despite 2006 United Nations Security Council sanctions that prohibit the production of ballistic missiles by North Korea.

The U.S. and nearly 50 countries condemned the transfer and the use of North Korean missiles by Russia, calling for an immediate end to the delivery of weapons from Pyongyang to Moscow.

Earlier this month, Ukraine's Prosecutor General announced that Russia had launched at least 24 North Korean missiles into the country.

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Ukraine denies Russia's claim that it captured village in Kherson Oblast

Ukraine's Southern Operational Command denied Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu's claim that the village of Krynky in Kherson Oblast had been captured by Russia on Feb. 20.

"Russian forces, having failed in their assault operations on the left bank of Kherson Oblast, have resorted to manipulation and falsification of facts," the statement shared to social media by the Operational Command read.

In an interview with the Russian state-run news agency TASS on Tuesday, Shoigu claimed that Russian forces "mopped up" Krynky en route to capturing a foothold on the left bank of the Dnipro River.

Ukraine's Armed Forces contradicted Shoigu's statement, noting that Ukraine continues to hold its positions around the village.

Ukraine's claims appear to be backed by the Institute for the Study of War's (ISW) assessment on Feb. 20, which observes that geolocated visual evidence suggests that Ukrainian forces maintain their limited bridgehead in the area.

The ISW noted that the Kremlin likely prematurely claimed that Krynky had been captured as a way to "reinforce its desired informational effects ahead of the March 2024 presidential election."

Analysts noted that Shoigu likely attempted to frame Russia's ongoing assault on Kherson Oblast as similar to the seizure of Avdiivka to portray a perception of military strength as Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks a fifth consecutive term in office.

According to Ukraine's Armed Forces, Russian forces made a single attempt to storm Krynky during the day and retreated after suffering significant losses.

As heavy fighting continues in the region, Russia has made marginal advances along the eastern bank of Kherson Oblast. For months, Ukraine has successfully repelled Russian attacks around the village.

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Editor’s Note: The Kyiv Independent does not disclose the soldiers’ full names since they were not authorized to speak with the press. DONETSK OBLAST – As Russian forces closed in on a Ukrainian pocket southeast of Avdiivka, infantryman Oleh heard the order clearly: “There will be no evacuation. Le…
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