Hundreds Of Soldiers Hit By Rocket Because Of Unauthorized Cellphone Use, Russia Says

(Photo by GINTS IVUSKANS/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent
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A rocket strike that killed at least 89 Russian troops was caused by unauthorized cellphone use at a military facility, Russia said late Tuesday.

Ukrainian forces launched six rockets from a U.S.-supplied HIMARS system into the Russian-occupied Donetsk region, just minutes into the new year. Russia’s Defense Ministry initially reported a death toll of 63, before revising the number upward.

Unauthorized cellphone usage allowed Ukrainian forces to track down the location of the facility, Gen. Lt. Sergei Sevryukov said in a statement Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. Some officials believe Russia was quartering troops near ammunition stocks, amplifying the severity of the blast.

Four of the six rockets launched made contact while the other two were shot down, causing the targeted building to collapse.

Ukraine’s armed forces reported that roughly 400 Russian troops were killed and around 300 more wounded at the vocational school building which was hit. Those figures have not been independently verified.

The attack was one of the deadliest to hit Moscow’s forces since it began its invasion of Ukraine early last year. It occurred about eight miles from the front line, according to the United Kingdom’s Defense Ministry.

Sevryukov promised to punish the officials responsible for the failures that led to the attack, adding that the Russian military was taking measures to ensure there wouldn’t be a repeat in the future. (RELATED: National Security Spooks Blamed Russia For Pipeline Explosion — Apparently With No Evidence)

American-supplied HIMARS launch systems have been a key defensive tool for Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion. Now, the country is preparing to use Patriot missile systems provided by the U.S. to fend off Russian aerial attacks, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said at a press briefing. The U.S. agreed to provide Ukraine with the Patriot system and training on how to use it in December.