The Ukraine military rejected as false Russia’s claim that it conducted a “retaliation” rocket attack Sunday that killed 600 Ukrainian troops housed in Kramatorsk in the hotly contested Donetsk region.
Serhii Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s forces in the east, told The Associated Press that the missiles damaged civilian infrastructure but that the “armed forces of Ukraine weren’t affected.”
Earlier, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Lieutenant-General Igor Konashenkov said Russian intelligence “detected and reliably confirmed” through multiple independent channels the location of some temporary bases of Ukrainian servicemen in Kramatorsk.
“As a result of a massive rocket strike on these temporary bases of Ukrainian units, more than 600 Ukrainian servicemen were killed,” he said.
The ministry said the attack was in retaliation for a Ukraine strike a week ago on buildings housing Russian soldiers in Makiivka, about 60 miles south Kramatorsk. That strike killed 89 Russian servicemembers, the Kremlin said; Ukraine authorities estimated the death toll was much higher. 
Sunday’s missile strike came hours after the end of a partially observed, 36-hour unilateral cease-fire Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered to mark Russian Orthodox Christmas.
UKRAINE DISMISSES PUTIN CEASE-FIRE ORDER: US to send Bradley vehicles to Ukraine
Other developments:
►50 Ukrainian fighters returned home in a prisoner swap with Russia, Ukrainian authorities said. Thirty-three were officers, 17 were privates and sergeants. Russia said 50 of its troops were freed.
►Ukrainian tennis player Ekaterina Volodko defeated Russian Valeria Savinykh in the finals of a tennis tournament in Thailand. 
►Russia and Belarus will conducted joint tactical air force exercises from Jan. 16 to Feb. 1, Belarusian officials announced. Belarus has been Russia closest ally since the Ukraine invasion more than 10 months ago.
UKRAINE HAILS US MILITARY AIDas ‘very powerful’; Christmas cease-fire said to falter
The Bosnian Serb separatist leader on Sunday awarded Russian President Vladimir Putin with the highest medal of honor for his “patriotic concern and love” for the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia.
“Putin is responsible for developing and strengthening cooperation and political and friendly relations between RS (Republika Srpska) and Russia,” the Bosnian Serb president, Milorad Dodik, said at the awards ceremony in the Bosnian Serb stronghold of Banja Luka.
Dodik, who visited Putin in September in Moscow, has maintained close ties with the Russian president despite Russia’s war in Ukraine. The medal will be presented to Putin during the next meeting between the two, Russian Ambassador Igor Kalbukhov said.
Moscow has often been accused by the West of seeking to destabilize Bosnia and the rest of the Balkans through its proxies in Serbia and Bosnia. Dodik has openly advocated tearing away the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia from a Bosniak-Croat federation to join it up with neighboring Serbia.
Russia has been bolstering its fortifications in Zaporizhzhia, concerned that a major Ukrainian breakthrough in the southeastern region would seriously challenge the viability of Russia’s ‘land bridge’ Russia and Crimea, the British Defense Ministry says. The ministry, in its latest assessment of the war, also says the Russians are concerned that Ukrainian success in the Luhansk region would further undermine the Kremlin’s professed war aim of ‘liberating’ the Donbas.
“Deciding which of these threats to prioritize countering is likely one of the central dilemmas for Russian operational planner,” the assessment says.
Contributing: The Associated Press

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