9 of Ukraine's deadliest strikes that killed scores of Russians with a single blow — US HIMARS and ATACMS take a toll

  • Russia is believed to have lost more than 450,000 soldiers during the war in Ukraine.

  • Some Ukrainian strikes have killed scores of Russian troops with a single blow.

  • Russia and Ukraine are both secretive about death tolls and their estimates usually widely differ.

More than two years on, the war in Ukraine has been brutal and costly for both sides, particularly for invading Russian forces.

The UK Defense Ministry said on April 27, 2024, that it estimated 450,000 Russian troops had been killed or wounded since the start of the conflict.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine have ever confirmed the numbers of their losses.

Reports claimed Russia was hemorrhaging men and weapons in its attempts to capture Avdiivka, a strategic town in eastern Ukraine and a gateway to Russia-occupied Ukraine. The town fell to Russian occupation in February.

Now fighting wages on in the surrounding areas such as Chasiv Yar. Russia continues to have the upper hand, but Ukraine is holding out hope that newly approved US aid will reach its front lines sooner rather than later.

Despite high Russian losses, the country's population is about three times the size of Ukraine's — a large pool from which Russia could keep replenishing its ranks. In April, Zelenskyy claimed Russia was preparing to mobilize a further 300,000 troops by June, though the Kremlin denied this.

Russians typically outnumber Ukrainians on the battlefield by a ratio of almost three to one, The New York Times reported, but Ukraine has used weapons such as the US-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, and Western cruise missiles to inflict high casualties on Russian troops.

These are believed to be some of the deadliest single moments for Russia in the conflict so far.

Ukraine wiped out 100 Russian troops at once with US ATACMS

ATACMS Army Tactical Missile System
An Army Tactical Missile System during live-fire testing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on December 14, 2021White Sands Missile Range/John Hamilton

Ukrainian forces launched an ATACMS long-range missile strike on a Russian military training area some 50 miles behind the front line in occupied Luhansk.

The attack killed more than 100 Russian soldiers in one fell swoop, according to OSINT and military analysts.

According to a post on May 1, 2024, by Osinttechnical, associated with the US-based Centre for Naval Analyses, Ukraine appeared to strike the training area with three US-supplied M39 ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles.

Aerial geolocated videos indicated that one of the missiles struck a gathering of more than 100 Russian soldiers, with hundreds of M74 APAM bomblets falling on them, Osinttechnical wrote.

GeoConfirmed, a project specializing in open-source geolocation, reported that four ATACMS missiles were employed in the attack, though the first was a "dud." The strike targeted the village of Rohove in Luhansk. Footage shared by one of its volunteers suggested that the strikes occurred within a minute.

Ukraine hit a company of Russian troops with HIMARS while they waited around for a visiting general

Ukrainian soldiers watch a rocket fire from a HIMARS launcher on May 18, 2023 in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine.
Ukrainian soldiers watch a rocket fire from a HIMARS launcher on May 18, 2023 in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine.Photo by Serhii Mykhalchuk/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

In February 2024, a Ukrainian HIMARS strike wiped out at least 60 Russian troops who were gathered en masse in an open field this week as they flouted a key wartime rule that Russia has repeatedly ignored throughout the war, according to reports and video footage.

The Russian battalion congregated at a training area near the village of Trudovske in occupied eastern Ukraine when the two missiles struck, The BBC reported.

Sources familiar with the incident told the outlet that the soldiers were gathered to await the arrival of a senior commander.

Ukraine was criticized in November following a similar scenario in which 19 soldiers were killed by Russian missiles at an open-air awards ceremony near the frontline. 

A strike on Kherson 14 miles behind the front line

Ukrainian soldiers fire at Russian positions from a US-supplied M777 howitzer
Ukrainian soldiers fire at Russian positions from a US-supplied M777 howitzer in the Kherson oblast, Ukraine, in January.AP Photo/Libkos

Ukrainian forces likely took out more than 70 Russian soldiers in a strike on the village of Hladkivka in the Kherson oblast on November 10, 2023, the UK Ministry of Defence said.

The attack, which targeted a convoy of trucks, likely took place 14 miles behind the front lines, highlighting Ukraine's long-range precision-strike capabilities.

Russia's warship Novocherkassk — part of its Black Sea Fleet — was hit in a Ukrainian attack

The Russian Navy's large landing ship Novocherkassk sails in the Bosphorus, on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey, October 8, 2015.
The Russian landing ship Novocherkassk, seen here in 2015, was damaged in a Ukrainian airstrike, Russian officials confirmed.Reuters

On December 26, 2023, images of a massive explosion went viral on social media of the Russian navy's stricken landing ship Novocherkassk.

A Telegram channel, the independent Russian media outlet Astra, reported there were 77 sailors aboard the Novocherkassk at the time of the Ukrainian strike on a dock in Feodosia in annexed Crimea, and 33 were reported missing and 19 injured.

Reporters and open-source intelligence channels posted photos showing the burning wreckage of the docked ship, supporting Ukraine's claim that long-range missiles — probably the highly-rated British Storm Shadow cruise missiles — attacked the ship.

Some reports said the vessel may have been loaded with Iranian-made Shahed attack drones when it was hit.

Russians killed while training on Dzharylhach island

A still from the video showing an explosion on a sandbar.
Footage uploaded by Ukraine of a HIMARS strike on a sandbar.Screenshot/National Resistance Center

Ukraine released a video that claimed to show Russian soldiers being struck by HIMARS as they trained at Dzharylhach island, a 26-mile-long sandbank in the Black Sea that's part of the Russian-occupied Kherson oblast.

Ukraine said that the attack caused 200 casualties. The number could not be independently verified.

The drone footage from August 2023 shows soldiers appearing to stretch and exercise on the Ukrainian island's sandy shores before being hit from above.

Strike during a commander’s speech in Kreminna

A HIMARS rocket launching.
A M142 HIMARS launches a rocket in the direction of Bakhmut on May 18 in Donetsk oblast, Ukraine.Photo by Serhii Mykhalchuk/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

Ukraine's HIMARS reportedly struck a large gathering of Russian soldiers in the city of Kreminna as they stood for two hours to watch a commander's speech in July 2023.

Some reports put the number of dead as high as 100 and total casualties as high as 200. The numbers could not be independently verified.

An unnamed Ukrainian official told the Kyiv Post that it was a "funny situation" because the Russian soldiers had made themselves sitting ducks.

The claim, which a Russian milbogger initially reported, led to Russian nationalists calling for military leaders to be punished.

New Year’s strike on Makiivka

The aftermath of the strike in Makiivka on January 3, 2023.
The aftermath of the strike in Makiivka on January 3.REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

While Russian officials have largely not acknowledged losses, Russia's defense ministry made a rare announcement confirming the deaths of 89 troops in a strike in Makiivka, a small city in Ukraine's Donetsk oblast.

Ukrainian officials claimed that the casualties were much higher, with around 400 soldiers killed and 300 injured. The figures could not be independently verified.

Ukraine said it used HIMARS for the attack, and the Russian ministry said Ukraine fired six rockets, four of which struck their troops, the ISW reported.

The attack sparked widespread criticism of Russian military leadership, ISW reported. A senior Russian military official, Sergei Sevryukov, blamed the high number of casualties on soldiers' use of cell phones without providing evidence, The Guardian reported.

A Russian battalion’s failed crossing of the Siverskyi Donets River

A bridge across the Siverskyi Donets river.
A bridge across the Siverskyi Donets River lies broken, blown up by Ukrainian forces in spring 2022 to slow a Russian advance, on April 23.Scott Peterson/Getty Images

Ukrainian forces decimated a Russian battalion as it tried to cross the Siverskyi Donets River in northeastern Ukraine in May 2022.

Ukrainian artillery destroyed several Russian pontoon bridges, and estimates put the toll of dead or wounded Russians at around 485, according to the Institute for the Study of War, or ISW, based on analyses of publicly available imagery.

They estimated that over 80 pieces of equipment could have been destroyed.

Media reports said that Ukraine used M777 howitzers to strike the battalion.

Russian milbloggers responded to the incident with shock and began commenting on the incompetence of the Russian military, the ISW reported.

The sinking of the missile cruiser Moskva

The Russian missile cruiser Moskva patrols in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Syria, on December 17, 2015.
The Russian missile cruiser Moskva in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Syria in 2015.MAX DELANY/AFP via Getty Images

Just two months into Russia's unprovoked invasion, Ukraine scored an early success by sinking the Russian warship Moskva, the flagship of the Russian Navy's Black Sea Fleet.

On April 14, 2022, Ukrainian officials said their forces had struck the ship with at least one Neptune missile, which the Pentagon confirmed.

Ukraine claimed that almost all 500 sailors on board had perished, while Russia said that nearly all had evacuated before the ship sank.

Later, Russia admitted under pressure that one sailor had died and that 27 were missing, but said the rest had been evacuated.

But several family members of Moskva sailors told the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta that at least 40 on board had died.

The true death toll is still unknown.

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