Russian rocket attack turns Ukrainian navy base to rubble, killing dozens

MYKOLAIV, Ukraine – The headquarters of the Ukrainian 36th Naval Infantry Brigade based in the southern city of Mykolaiv is no more. It...


MYKOLAIV, Ukraine – The headquarters of the Ukrainian 36th Naval Infantry Brigade based in the southern city of Mykolaiv is no more. It is now a pile of rubble, where rescuers continued to search for missing Marine Corps on Saturday.

An early morning rocket attack a day earlier destroyed the base barracks where an unknown number of marines were sleeping. He killed more than 40 marines, according to a senior Ukrainian military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal sensitive military information.

That number would make it one of the deadliest attacks on Ukrainian forces since the war began three weeks ago. But there are indications that the death toll could be much higher.

All day Saturday, vans and trucks carrying homemade signs reading “Load 200,” the code for military dead, drove in and out of the base’s entrance gates. Inside, exhausted-looking firefighters rushed through a pile of broken concrete and rebar in search of survivors.

At the Mykolaiv city morgue, dozens of bodies, some in uniform, were laid side by side in a storage area. A morgue worker would not say how many were newly brought in from the site of the destroyed barracks.

“A lot,” he said. “I won’t say how many, but a lot.”

The Russian attack dealt a blow to this city which had experienced a period of relative calm after weeks of heavy bombardment. The Ukrainian forces had pushed the Russian troops out of range of their artillery.

The senior Ukrainian official said it was likely the barracks was hit by a longer-range weapon, such as an Iskander-M ballistic missile, although Ukrainian authorities released few other details.

Mykolaiv region governor Vitaliy Kim, who has become known for his upbeat daily video messages, appeared somber on Saturday.

Russian forces, he said, “disgracedly fired rockets at our sleeping soldiers yesterday.”

“The rescue operation is still ongoing,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about it because I’m waiting for the official conclusions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.”

In a Facebook post on Friday, the 36th Brigade did not mention the attack, but posted a video montage of the Marines in action, along with a patriotic song. The message stated that several of those featured in the video had “died a glorious death on the battlefield, never having heard the lyrics sung in their honor.”

For weeks, Russian forces massed on the outskirts of Mykolaiv, attempting to surround and capture the city and take control of the only bridge across the southern Buh River, which would allow them to move towards Odessa and the Headquarters of the Ukrainian Navy.

Ukrainian army defenses in Mykolaiv have so far held, but not without casualties. Dozens of civilians have been killed in shelling, often with cluster munitions. A cruise missile attack on the barracks of Ukraine’s 79th Air Assault Brigade this month killed about 10 soldiers, Ukrainian officials said.

Despite Friday’s attack, Ukrainian military officials were optimistic about their efforts to push the Russian lines further east, away from the city.

At a fortified Ukrainian position outside Mykolaiv on Saturday, soldiers appeared relaxed, smoking and chatting in small groups outside their trenches. Volunteers brought them jars of homemade borscht for lunch.

“They don’t have the forces to attack Mykolaiv now,” said Lt. Col. Yaroslav Chepurnoi of Ukraine’s 79th Air Assault Brigade, which was deployed to the position. “But they seem to be up to something. They started digging around different population centers, and with quick raids we gradually started driving them out of those places. This is how the war is going right now.

The spoils of war were visible on the road. A large military transport truck emblazoned with the white Z that Russian forces use to identify themselves was being towed into town. A half-destroyed Tigr armored fighting vehicle, Russia’s answer to the Humvee, sat on a flatbed truck.

Due to the lull in the shooting, workers from local construction companies were out on Saturday to help build new trenches and an underground shelter to rival a wood-burning stove.

A sergeant, who gave only his first name, Andrei, said he quit his job as a security guard and went to the local recruiting office the day Russian President Vladimir V. Putin ordered his forces to invade Ukraine. Since then, he has lived in a trench.

He said the attack on the marine base showed the need for Western countries to provide Ukraine with additional missile defense systems. Despite the heavy loss of life in the attack, he said he believed Russian forces were now on their back legs.

“We are holding back the defense and waiting for them to weaken,” he said. “In my opinion, we should get the order to clean them from scratch. But that’s just my opinion. I am a soldier.”

Part of the Ukrainian military’s success, the sergeant said, was the help it received from local residents. In addition to borscht, he said, locals brought him a new cell phone so they could more easily provide him with information about Russian troop movements in their villages.

“They thought the locals would greet them with flowers,” he said, throwing out several unprintable words. “And the locals told them, we don’t need your Russian world, so go back where you came from.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Russian rocket attack turns Ukrainian navy base to rubble, killing dozens
Russian rocket attack turns Ukrainian navy base to rubble, killing dozens
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