Russian rocket attack turns Ukrainian sea base into rubble, dozens killed
MYKOLAIV, Ukraine – is not the headquarters of the 36th Ukrainian Naval Infantry Brigade, located in the southern city of Mykolaiv. It is now a pile of rubble, where rescue teams continued to search for the bodies of the missing sailors on Saturday as well.
An early morning rocket attack the day before destroyed the base’s barracks where an unknown number of marines were sleeping. It killed at least 40 marines, according to a senior Ukrainian military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for revealing sensitive military information.
That number would make it one of the deadliest attacks on the Ukrainian military since the start of the war three weeks ago. But there are indications that the death toll could be much higher.
All day on Saturday, vans and trucks with home signs “loaded 200”, the code for military fatalities, flocked in and out of the base’s front gates. Inside, exhausted-looking firefighters scrambled over piles of broken concrete and rebar in search of survivors.
In the morgue in the city of Mykolaiv, dozens of bodies, some in uniform, were piled together in a storage area. A morgue employee would not reveal how many new ones were brought in from the site of the destroyed barracks.
“Many,” he said. “I will not say how many, but how many.”
The Russian attack was a blow to the city, which was enjoying a relatively calm period after weeks of heavy shelling. The Ukrainian army had pushed back Russian troops beyond their artillery range.
A senior Ukrainian official said it was likely the barracks was hit by a long-range weapon like the Iskander-M ballistic missile, although Ukrainian officials have released few other details.
MycoLive Region Governor Vitaly Kim, known for his upbeat daily video messages, appeared gloomy on Saturday.
“The Russian army fired rockets yesterday at our sleeping soldiers dishonestly,” he said.
“The rescue operation is still on,” he said. “I do not want to talk about it because I am waiting for the official conclusion of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.”
In a Facebook post on Friday, the 36th Brigade did not mention the attack, but published a video montage of the marines in action, accompanied by a patriotic song. The post said that many in the video had “died a glorious death on the battlefield, never having heard the words sung in his honor.”
For weeks, Russian forces have been surrounded on the outskirts of Mykolaiv, attempting to encircle and capture the city and seize control of the only bridge across the southern Buh River, which they have been given to Odessa and the Ukrainian Navy. Will allow you to proceed to Headquarters.
The defenses of the Ukrainian army in Mykolaiv remained so far, though not without losses. Dozens of civilians have been killed in the gunfight, often with cluster ammunition. About 10 soldiers were killed in a cruise missile attack on the barracks of the 79th Ukrainian Air Assault Brigade earlier this month, Ukrainian officials said.
Despite Friday’s attack, Ukrainian military officials were upbeat about their efforts to push Russia’s border farther east from the city.
In a strong Ukrainian position outside Mykolaiv on Saturday, soldiers were seen relaxing, smoking and talking in small groups outside their trenches. Volunteers brought them jars of homemade borscht for lunch.
“They no longer have the strength to attack Mykolaiv,” said lieutenant colonel Yaroslav Chepernoi of the 79th Ukrainian Air Assault Brigade. “But it looks like they are preparing something. They have started digging around different population centers, and with quick raids we have slowly started to drive them out of these places. This time the war is on. It’s going like that.”
The spoils of war were visible on the road. A large military transport truck emblazoned with white jade that Russian forces used to identify themselves was being driven into the city. A half-destroyed armored tiger fighting vehicle, Russia’s answer to Humavi, was seated on a flatbed truck.
Russo-Ukraine War: Key things to know
A Ukrainian base has been hit. A Ukrainian official said 40 people were killed in a missile attack on a barracks in the southern city of Mykolaiv. This number would make it one of the deadliest attacks on the Ukrainian military since the start of the war, and the death toll could be much higher.
As shooting slowed, workers at local construction companies were helping build new trenches on Saturday and an underground shelter was competing with a wood-burning stove.
A sergeant, who would give only his first name, Andrei, said he quit his job as a security guard and went to the local draft office the day Russian President Vladimir V. Putin ordered his army to invade Ukraine. Since then he has been living in the abyss.
He said the attack on the sea base showed the need for Western countries to provide Ukraine with additional missile defense systems. Despite the massive loss of lives in that attack, he said he believed Russian forces were now on their rear.
“We are holding the defense and waiting for them to weaken,” he said. “In my opinion we should get an order to make them void. But thats just my opinion. I’m a soldier.”
Part of the Ukrainian military’s success, the sergeant said, was aid from local residents. In addition to Borst, he said, the locals brought him a new cellphone so that they could easily provide him with information about the activities of the Russian military in their villages.
“They thought the locals would meet them with flowers,” he said, throwing in several unspoken words. “And the locals told them, we don’t need your Russian world, so go back to where you came from.”
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