A Moscow-based modern dance choreographer and reportedly dozens of members of an elite Russian amphibious infantry unit died in a weekend strike by a US-made HIMARS rocket hitting a Donetsk region concert hall during a song and dance performance intended to raise soldier morale, news reports said.

Video recorded moments before the munition struck home on Nov. 19 showed a musician playing a guitar in the packed auditorium of the “Palace of Culture,” the main public building in Kumacheve, a Ukrainian village occupied by Russian forces since 2014. Audio recorded screams and explosions. Russian and Ukrainian information platforms widely confirmed the fact of the strike and the video’s authenticity.

Ukrainian military information platforms were the first to report the strike, which official Ukrainian spokespersons had by Wednesday not yet confirmed. Telegram posters associated with Kremlin troops said the missile passed through the auditorium’s roof before detonating, most saying 20-25 people were killed in the blasts and dozens more injured.


Most victims were members of Russia’s elite 810th Naval Infantry Brigade, or service family members, that had gathered in Kumacheve for an awards and entertainment ceremony, the pro-Russia VDV Za Chesnost and Spravedlivost blog wrote:

“On Nov. 19, some infernal (expletive) idiot decided to arrange an award ceremony for 810th Marine Infantry to mark the holiday Day of Missile Troops and Artillery, and for the occasion organized a concert for the attendees. Near Starobeshevo (a Russia-occupied city well within the range of Ukrainian precision-guided rockets), bi**h, a festive concert!!! Our boys all were gathered in the club in the evening. (And) of course, the (expletive for Ukrainians) hit the place. As a result, it is reported about 25 people died and about a hundred were wounded. The actress and volunteer Polina Menshikh died there, at the concert.”

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According to most reports Ukrainian gunners fired at least two rockets in the strike. The first weapon hit the auditorium building roof trapping dozens of concertgoers in rubble. The second, arriving several seconds later, struck the auditorium parking lot, wounding and killing concert attendees that had managed to escape outside, the Ukrainian military information platform Dialog.Ua reported.

Local media showed images of a gaping hole in the auditorium roof, windows blown out and masked rescue workers holding up metal fragments similar to anti-personnel casing used in a US-made 127mm M26 rocket fired from the HIMARS system. Other images showed three corpses in proximity to the smashed House of Culture.

Sources identified one of the victims as Polina Melnikh, the operator of a modern dance studio in Moscow and a volunteer supporting Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. There was no official confirmation of any casualties, in Russia-controlled media, besides Melnikh. The opposition Russian news platform Astra said the 25 persons dead figure was reported but not confirmed.

Many Ukrainian news platforms and military bloggers called the Kumacheve strike revenge for a Nov. 3 Russian missile attack against elements of Ukraine’s 128th Mountain Assault Infantry Brigade that killed at least 19 soldiers and officers gathered for an awards ceremony in the Zaporizhzhia region. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later said leadership of the unit drawn from Ukraine’s far western Transcarpathia region may have been negligent and ordered an investigation.


Russia’s Sevastopol-based 810th Naval Infantry Brigade in February 2022 landed on Ukraine’s southern Azov Sea coast near the town of Urzuf as part of the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine from the south. The formation has been almost constantly deployed to the fighting lines in the southern and eastern sectors of the front since then, and by some accounts has seen its entire paper strength of 1,500 men replaced thrice to fill losses in the ranks.

In 2014, during Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, more than 100 Ukrainian Naval Infantry men and officers stationed in Sevastopol turned coat and joined the Russian military. According to Ukrainian media reports, some senior members of Russia’s 810th Naval Infantry Brigade are former Ukrainian service personnel who should be prosecuted as traitors for betrayal of an oath of loyalty to Ukraine’s constitution.  


Robert “Madyar” Brovdy, a Ukrainian attack drone commander and one of the first military bloggers to report on the fact of the Kumacheve strike, in a Nov. 21 post on the 810th and its, according to him, heavy casualties said: “This is retribution. 810th, you now feel the pain, we know that for sure. For our boys. For Transcarpathia, for the Separate Mountain Assault unit. [Russian service members and families should] carefully follow the obituaries, especially people living in occupied Crimea.”

“To be continued, mf,” Brovdy added, in English.

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