caricature a The devastating missile strike on the Dnipro intensified as more bodies were recovered from the wreckage of the Dnipro One of the deadliest attacks Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine 11 months ago.
Residents gathered on Monday to watch cranes remove collapsed parts of a Soviet-style apartment building that opened because of the strike in central Ukraine two days ago.
Ukraine’s emergency services said 40 people had died, including three children, and 34 people were still missing.
Kyiv blamed Moscow for the attack, but the Kremlin said Russian forces were not responsible and pointed to an unsubstantiated theory circulating on social media that Ukrainian air defense systems caused the damage.
The Russian Armed Forces do not bomb residential buildings or social infrastructure. “It hit military targets,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, noting that the air defenses in Kyiv derailed a Russian missile.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday night that the search would continue as long as necessary, and condemned Russia’s “cowardly silence” over the attack, but the chances of finding more survivors appeared slim on Monday afternoon.
Russia and Belarus conduct military exercises
The high cost of the strike came as Russia and its close ally Belarus conducted joint military exercises.
Belarus, one of the only countries that has unquestionably supported Russia throughout the conflict, allowed forces from Moscow to launch their invasion of Belarusian territory in February.
Its defense ministry said the air exercises would include joint “tactical” flights and that all airports in Belarus would take part.
“The exercises are purely defensive in nature,” said Pavel Muraviko, first deputy foreign minister in the Belarusian Security Council, in remarks released by the Defense Ministry on Sunday.
Al-Jazeera correspondent Ali Hashem said in a report from Moscow that the exercises “will focus mainly on conducting patrols. [and] supplies during operations.
“They were described as defensive drills, not offensive drills, so the general perspective is one that is discussed whenever these drills are brought up,” Hashem said.
But Belarus’ role in the war raises many concerns [and] He said if it had an effect.
Meanwhile, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, is expected in Ukraine on Monday to deploy monitoring missions at nuclear power plants across the country. Securing and protecting nuclear sites was a major concern during the Russian invasion.
“I am proud to lead this mission in Ukraine, where we are deployed to all nuclear power plants in the country. [nuclear power plants] Providing assistance in the field of nuclear safety and security.
In another sign that the war is having repercussions beyond Ukraine, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht resigned on Monday after months of criticism of Berlin’s clumsy response to the war in Ukraine.
With the war dragging on for almost a year, Ukraine is pressuring its Western donors to supply its forces with tanks, particularly German-designed Leopard tanks.
This weekend, Britain pledged to send 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, making it the first Western country to supply Ukraine with the heavy tanks Kyiv is ordering.
Peskov expected this to have little effect on the Ukrainian war effort.
“These tanks are burning and will burn,” the Kremlin spokesman said.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview with German media on Sunday that “the recent pledges of heavy war equipment are significant – and I expect many more in the near future.”
On Monday, the Polish Prime Minister urged the German government to supply Kyiv with a wide range of weapons, and expressed the hope that Berlin would soon agree to the transfer of battle tanks.
The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank in Washington, D.C., reported indications that the Kremlin was trying to turn its invasion into a “major conventional war” after months of embarrassing military setbacks.
Russia has been pushed out of many of the territories captured in recent months by the successful Ukrainian counteroffensive.
“The Kremlin is likely to prepare for decisive strategic action over the next six months with the aim of regaining the initiative and ending Ukraine’s current series of operational successes,” the institute said in a statement.
He noted that reports indicated that the Russian military leadership is in “serious preparations” for an expanded mobilization effort, while preserving the mobilized elements for future use while striving to boost military industrial production and adjust its command structure.
This means that Ukraine’s Western allies “will have to continue to support Ukraine in the long term,” the think tank said.
Separately, Ukrainian officials said on Monday that Russian forces continue to bomb the southern city of Kherson, which Ukraine regained control of late last year.
Governor Jaroslav Yanushevich said a woman was killed in an attack on a building and an empty children’s hospital was destroyed by Russian forces.
In Crimea on the Black Sea, which Russia annexed in 2014, the Moscow-appointed official in charge of the military town of Sevastopol said Russian forces shot down seven drones within 24 hours.