40 killed in Ukraine strike, German Minister resigns

KYIV: 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 targetting civilians.
Germany’s Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht resigned on Monday, while 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, but President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the rescue in the central Ukrainian city would go on “as long as there is 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 defenses. Kyiv says the apartment building was hit by a Russian ship-to-ship missile, of a type that Ukraine does not have the capability to 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 of people have been killed since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 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 largely 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 armored vehicles, giving its forces the capability to break through Russian lines.
Western countries have so far stopped short of sending heavy tanks, a taboo 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 armored force, though that would require permits which Berlin has yet to grant.
With U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin due to host allies at an air base in Germany on Friday discussing aid for Ukraine, the German government said Chancellor Olaf Scholz had accepted the resignation of Lambrecht, his defense minister.
Lambrecht had been criticized in recent days for tone deafness after an upbeat New Year’s Eve message filmed in front of fireworks, in which she spoke of the opportunities she had to meet “interesting, great people” as a result of the Ukraine war.
Germany’s allies have been increasingly direct in their demands that Berlin provide Leopards, or at least allow them to do so. “I call for decisive actions by the German government,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Monday during a visit to Berlin, to applause from a group of lawmakers gathered in the city’s Jewish Museum for a gala.
“The battle for freedom and our future is raging as we speak,” he said. “Tanks must not be left in storehouses, but placed in their hands.” Finland’s Defence Minister Mikko Savola told Reuters: “It depends very much on Germany’s lead how we act with these Leopard tanks. These require a German export permit and in addition to that, the German defense industry has a very strong role in this, in how substitutive equipment can be obtained.” –Agencies