The death toll from a Russian missile strike in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro rose to 40 on Monday, with dozens more missing, making it the deadliest civilian incident of Moscow’s three-month campaign of hurling missiles at cities far from the front.
Kyiv says the mass civilian deaths, which it describes as terrorism, demonstrate why it needs more weapons to defeat Russian forces 11 months after they invaded. Russia denies intentionally targeting civilians.
Germany’s Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht resigned on Monday. At the same time, her government came under mounting pressure to let allies send Ukraine heavy tanks at the start of what is expected to be a pivotal week for Western plans to arm Kyiv.
Ukrainian officials acknowledged little hope of finding anyone else alive in the rubble of Saturday’s attack in Dnipro. Still, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the rescue in the central Ukrainian city would go on as long as there was even the slightest chance to save lives.
“Dozens of people were rescued from the rubble, including six children. We are fighting for every person!” Zelenskiy said in an overnight televised address.
Moscow, which has been conducting large-scale strikes on Ukrainian cities mainly targetting power generation infrastructure since October, said it was not to blame for the destruction in Dnipro, which it said was caused by Ukrainian air defences. Kyiv says a Russian ship-to-ship missile hit the apartment building that Ukraine cannot shoot down.
At least 40 people were killed in the attack, with 30 still unaccounted for, city official Gennadiy Korban said. He said 75 people were wounded, including 14 children. Tens of thousands have been killed since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, and about a quarter of the population has fled their homes.
Ukrainian forces recaptured swathes of territory during the second half of 2022. But the front lines have primarily been frozen in place for the past two months, despite intense fighting in which both sides have taken heavy losses. Kyiv says a key to breaking the stalemate would be Western tanks and armoured vehicles, giving its forces the capability to break through Russian lines.
Western countries have so far stopped short of sending heavy tanks; a taboo is finally broken at the weekend by Britain pledging a first squadron of Challengers. But the far more widely used German-made Leopards are widely seen as the most likely workhorses of a future Ukrainian armoured force, though that would require permits which Berlin has yet to grant.