Russia continues to humiliate itself. After a deadly rocket attack on New Year’s Day killed as many as 400 mobilized troops, Russia at first claimed only 63 had been killed. Russia soon updated that tally to 89 killed but also publicly blamed the troops for their own deaths claiming the Ukrainian strike was the result of recently mobilized troops using cell phones which allowed them to be targeted. Even some pro-Russian military bloggers said Russia was downplaying the number of deaths and also suggested that leadership was to blame for putting a bunch of inexperienced soldiers together in one spot near an ammo dump.

Over the weekend, Russia announced a retaliation strike which it claimed had killed 600 Ukrainian soldiers in a town called Kramatorsk.

Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday it had killed more than 600 Ukrainian servicemen in a massive rocket strike on two buildings in eastern Ukraine temporarily housing Ukrainian forces…

Russia’s defence ministry said the strike on the buildings in Kramatorsk was revenge for a deadly Ukrainian attack earlier this year on a Russian barracks in Makiivka in part of the Donetsk region controlled by Moscow’s forces in which at least 89 servicemen were killed.

It certainly sounds like a serious attack but was it? Photos from the scene actually show that the attacks missed the building — but more to the point, the building was empty. This reporter from Finland was at the scene of the attack the next day and there’s no sign anyone was killed there.

This tweet reads: “Russia claims it killed hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers in a missile strike on this school in Kramatorsk. I’m there and it’s a bit strange that the building isn’t even insulated. Locals didn’t see any ambulances here in the morning either.”

Tweet #2 reads, “I heard the explosions last night when this target was also hit. Large crater (possibly S-300) in front of the school. No direct hit. Military contacts visited the place in the morning and according to them the school was empty.”

And tweet #3: “Another missile hit in front of these old garages. I must say that at this point I trust my own observations and Ukraine’s statements more than the Russian Defense Ministry’s claim about more than 600 dead Ukrainian soldiers.” An Italian journalist checked the site and saw the same thing,

Reuters also had reporters at the scene who saw no evidence soldiers had been there or that anyone had been killed. So at this point the failure of this attack is pretty well documented. A spokesman for Ukraine has also denied anyone was harmed in the attack. USA Today reports that even some Russian military bloggers have criticized the Kremlin for lying.

The bloggers noted that the Russian ministry frequently presents fraudulent claims and criticized military leadership for fabricating a story instead of holding Russian leadership responsible.

Russian blogger Grey Zone wrote on Telegram that “instead of the real destruction of the enemy personnel, which would have been a worthy response, a media operation of retaliation was invented.”

So Russia lied about the strike in order to claim it had retaliated for the New Year’s Day attack but in fact its rockets missed the target and, more to the point, there was no one there anyway. Russia probably won’t care so long as they can claim domestically that they carried out a devastating retaliatory strike on Ukraine.

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