The death toll from the Dnipro apartment strike that occurred Saturday in the latest Russian assault on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has now risen to 44. That figure includes 4 children with an additional 79 people injured, and reports that many residents are still unaccounted for.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has blamed Moscow for the attack, which he referred to as a “war crime,” and vowed that he would seek justice for the substantial civilian casualties. Dnipro Mayor Borys Filatov updated the death toll Tuesday after two days of emergency crews searching for people in the rubble.
“The rescue operation, the demolition of the rubble, will not end until the bodies of all the dead are found,” said Deputy Head of the president, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, of the deadliest attack of the war thus far.
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On Monday, the Kremlin denied the attack on the civilian apartment building, shifting the blame instead and stating that it was likely a Ukrainian anti-air missile that fell on the building.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, “The Russian armed forces do not strike residential buildings or social infrastructure, they strike military targets,” adding that the “conclusion of some representatives of the Ukrainian side” have said that the strike could have been caused by an air defense system.
While Kyiv was quick to point out that the strike was “direct” and not the result of its air defense missiles, there was controversy in Ukraine’s response to the attack.
The controversy came when presidential aide Oleksiy Arestovych initially said that the residential apartment block was struck by an errant Ukrainian anti-air defense missile that had been fired to intercept a Russian rocket. Arestoych’s comments immediately unleashed controversy and fury from fellow officials while in a live televised broadcast that had also been picked up by Russian media.
Ukrainian officials have said that the Russian rocket was a Kh-22 and claimed that its military lacks the capability to intercept that particular rocket.
In response to the controversial comments, Arestovych apologized to the Ukrainian people and resigned.
“I wrote a letter of resignation. I want to set an example of civilized behavior. A fundamental mistake means resignation,” Arestovych posted on Facebook with a photo of his letter of resignation.
Referring to when his initial comments were made, Arestovych added that he made “a serious mistake, made during a live broadcast.” Arestovych continued, “I sincerely apologize to the victims and their relatives, the residents of the Dnipro, and everyone who was deeply wounded by my premature error version of the reason the Russian missile hit a residential building.”
Arestovych finished with an air of self-defense, saying, “The level of hate directed at me is incomparable with the consequences of the on-air mistake” and concluded by noting that his apology wasn’t for “the people who are spinning this issue.”
Meanwhile, the Kremlin has used Arestovych’s mistake to its advantage by also claiming that it was a Ukrainian anti-air defense missile that hit the Dnipro apartment block. The high rank of the Ukrainian official who first offered the inaccurate explanation gives Russia’s denial of launching the rocket and its explanation of events a more plausible stance.
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