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Russia Blames Banned Cell Phones For Ukrainian Attack

Strike is the single deadliest attack against Russian forces since the conflict with Ukraine began

Russian officials are now blaming its troops for a deadly attack on one of its bases that killed 89 troops over the New Year weekend, saying the unauthorized use of mobile phones led to the Ukrainian strike.

Russian News Agency Tass quoted First Deputy Head of the Main Military-Political Department of the Russian Armed Forces Lieutenant General Sergey Sevryukov as saying, “It has already become obvious at present that the main cause of the occurrence was activation and large-scale use, contrary to the ban, of personal phones by personnel within the reach of enemy’s destruction means.”

Sevryukov added, “This factor enabled the enemy to take the bearing and determine coordinates of servicemen location to deliver a missile strike. Required measures are being taken at present to exclude such tragic incidents in the future.”

Following the attack, Ukraine claimed that roughly 400 Russian soldiers were killed. Moscow initially said that 63 military personnel were killed, but Russian officials have since raised the number to 89.

The strike came just after midnight New Year’s Day and targeted a school that had been converted into a military facility. According to Tass, a commission is investigating the circumstances of the attack and officials are taking steps to avoid similar incidents in the future.

If true, this would not be the first circumstance where sensitive troop locations were inadvertently revealed through a mobile device. Sensitive U.S. military facilities were exposed in 2017 when a fitness app revealed active-duty troop locations after a map was published showing popular running routes.

“If soldiers use the app like normal people do, by turning it on tracking when they go to do exercise, it could be especially dangerous,” Nathan Ruser, an analyst with the Institute for United Conflict Analysts, told The Guardian, at the time.

The Russian military said that it retaliated against Ukraine with air strikes launched at a “hardware concentration” near a railway station in Donetsk, which destroyed more than 800 rockets and killed as many as 200 Ukrainian personnel, but Reuters was unable to verify that report.

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