Death toll from Russian missile attack on Ukraine rises to 40

  • German defense minister resigns

DNIPRO/Kyiv, Ukraine, Jan 16 (Reuters) – The death toll from a Russian missile attack on the Ukrainian city of Dnipro rose to 40 on Monday, with dozens more missing, becoming Moscow’s long-awaited In the deadliest civilian incident in the three-month strike, missiles were fired in cities far from the front lines.

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht resigned on Monday after being criticized for being deaf for her comments about the war, setting the stage for what is expected to be one of the most important weeks outlining Western military support for Kyiv .

Berlin is under intense pressure to allow the export of its Leopard main battle tank, which Ukraine hopes will form the backbone of a new armored force, as allies meet on Friday at a U.S. air base in Germany to discuss military aid.

Ukrainian officials acknowledged there was little hope of finding anyone else alive amid the rubble of Saturday’s Dnipro attack, but President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said “as long as there is even the slightest chance of saving a life” , the rescue work in the central Ukrainian city will continue.

“Dozens of people have been rescued from the rubble, including six children. We are fighting for everyone!” Zelensky said in a televised address overnight.

Moscow has denied the deliberate targeting of civilians in airstrikes since October that have left Ukrainian cities without power and water, and has said the Dnipro incident was caused by Ukrainian air defenses.

Kyiv said it was unable to shoot down an anti-ship missile it said hit an apartment building in Dnipro on Saturday, the latest in a series of Russian attacks.

City official Gennadiy Korban said at least 40 people were killed in the attack and 30 others were still missing. He said 75 people were injured, including 14 children.

tank week

The German government said Chancellor Olaf Schulz had accepted Lambrecht’s resignation and would soon appoint a new defense minister to replace her.

Her departure came just three days after she was due to host U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and four days before allies gathered at Ramstein Air Base in Germany for their next meeting to coordinate military support for Kyiv.

In recent days, Lambrecht has come under fire for being pitch-deaf after filming an upbeat New Year’s Eve address in front of the fireworks, in which she said the war in Ukraine had given her the opportunity to meet “interesting, great people”.

Intense diplomacy is expected in the coming week to secure more weapons for Kyiv, focusing on Germany’s reluctance so far to supply tanks or get its allies to send them.

France, the United States and Germany have all pledged armored fighting vehicles this month, but no main battle tank has so far been offered by the West. Britain broke that taboo at the weekend, delivering a Challenger squadron.

Moscow accused the West of escalating the conflict, although Russia also said the supply of tanks would not affect the course of the war. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that British tanks “will burn like other tanks”.

NATO allies in eastern and central Europe rely largely on German-built Panther tanks, with Western tanks seen as the best suited to form the nucleus of Ukraine’s new armored force. Poland and Finland said last week they were willing to send them, but that would require permission from Berlin.

The Ukrainian army retakes large swathes of territory in the second half of 2022. But the frontline has largely been frozen over the past two months, despite losses believed to be heavy on both sides. Kyiv said the new Western armor would break the impasse, giving its forces the ability to break through Russia’s lines.

Moscow claimed last week to capture the eastern salt mining town of Soledad in what would be its biggest victory on the battlefield since last August. Kyiv says it still has some presence in the town and fighting continues.

“In short, the battle continues,” Deputy Defense Minister Hannah Mallial said on the Telegram messaging app. “Everything else is unverified information.”

Ukraine’s Western allies say the fight for Soledad, with a pre-war population of just 10,000, is unlikely to have wider repercussions, unless heavy losses there could weaken the manpower both sides need in a future showdown.

Ukraine has been warning that Moscow may be planning new offensives in the coming weeks, including from close ally Belarus, which has allowed Russia to use its territory as a staging area but has so far refused to directly enter the war.

Russia and Belarus started joint military air drills on Monday. Minsk said the exercises were defensive and would not engage in combat.

“We exercised restraint and patience and let our gunpowder dry up,” Pavel Muraveyko, the first deputy state secretary of the Belarusian Security Council, said in a post on the Belarusian Defense Ministry’s Telegram app on Sunday.

Additional reporting by Lidia Kelly and Dan Peleschuk Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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