Time International Desk: Ukraine said on Tuesday 22 people were still missing after a Russian missile struck an apartment block in the city of Dnipro, killing at least 44 people.
Saturday’s strike was one of the deadliest attacks since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly 11 months ago. The Kremlin denies that its forces were responsible.
‘Twenty-two people are currently being sought,’ the state emergency services said.
Dnipro’s mayor Borys Filatov gave the new toll from the attack which ripped open the side of the Soviet-designed housing block in the central city.
The presidency said earlier that one of the bodies recovered from the rubble Tuesday was that of a child. Officials have said five children were among the dead.
The Ukrainian army said the block was hit by an X-22 Russian missile.
Emergency services said municipal workers had removed more than 9,000 tonnes of construction debris and 41 damaged cars since the rescue work began on Saturday.
The attack also triggered the resignation of a Ukrainian official who had sparked an outcry by suggesting air defence could have been responsible by intercepting a Russian missile, which then fell on the building.
‘I want to show an example of civilised behaviour: a fundamental mistake, then resign,’ presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovych wrote on social media, posting a picture of his handwritten letter.
Although the toll from the Dnipro attack is the highest of any recent single shelling, Ukraine said Tuesday that fighting was continuing across the frontline.
The deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said two people had been killed in the southern regions of Mykolaiv and Kherson by Russian shelling.
He said two civilians were killed in the Donetsk region, which has been the epicentre of fighting in recent months.
A Ukrainian military spokesman said again Tuesday that fighting was on-going for Soledar, a small salt mining town in Donetsk that Russia claims to have fully captured.
‘The Ukrainian military is in Soledar and is repulsing the Russian army,’ the spokesman for forces in east Ukraine, Sergiy Cherevaty, said.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian soldiers have arrived in the United States to learn how to use the Patriot air defence system in hopes of protecting against Russian missile strikes like one that just killed 40 people in the city of Dnipro.
The Ukrainian personnel arrived Sunday evening at Fort Sill in the state of Oklahoma for training at the US Army Air Defence Artillery School, Colonel Curtis King of that facility said in a video posted on Twitter.
Washington promised a Patriot battery it fires missiles to take out missiles to Ukraine late last year to help counter relentless aerial attacks by Moscow.
This was a significant victory for Kyiv, which had repeatedly pushed the United States for the system as the war launched by Moscow almost a year ago grinds on.
King did not say how many Ukrainian troops are in Oklahoma, but the Pentagon said earlier this month that 90 to 100 would come to America to learn how to operate and maintain the Patriot system in a course lasting several months.
Air defences have played a key role in protecting Ukraine from strikes and preventing Moscow’s forces from gaining control of the skies.
But as Russia faced increasing setbacks on the ground, it began systematically targeting critical infrastructure in Ukraine in attacks that have disrupted electricity, water and heat to millions of people.
It has also hit purely civilian structures.
A Russian missile strike Sunday on an apartment building in Dnipro in central Ukraine killed at least 40 people. Russia denied it was responsible for one of the deadliest single attacks since the war began.
Made by Raytheon, the MIM-104 Patriot is a surface-to-air missile system initially developed to intercept high-flying aircraft.
It was modified in the 1980s to focus on the new threat of tactical ballistic missiles, and was used in combat against Iraq’s Russian-made Scud missiles in the first Gulf War.
The Patriot has been proven effective in Saudi Arabia against Iranian-designed ballistic missiles fired from Yemen.
Raytheon says the system has intercepted more than 150 ballistic missiles in combat since 2015.