Ukraine authorities began “criminal proceedings” Monday against Russian soldiers blamed for the missile strike that
devastated a nine-story apartment building in Ukraine and killed at least 40 people.
At least 30 people remained missing from Saturday’s attack in the central Ukraine city of Dnipro, and rescue teams continued picking through the rubble in hopes of finding survivors, the Ukraine Security Service (SBU) said. At least 75 people were injured, 14 of them children.
In the high-rise building, 72 apartments were completely destroyed and 236 were damaged, leaving hundreds of Ukrainians homeless in the dead of winter. The SBU said several dozen Russian soldiers were involved, led by Col. Timoshin Oleg Evgenievich, commander of Russia’s 52nd Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment.
“The Security Service of Ukraine is making every effort to ensure that each of those involved in the terrorist attack on civilians of Ukraine receives a well-deserved punishment,” the SBU said in a statement.
►The German and Dutch foreign ministers condemned the deportation by Russians of thousands of Ukrainian children, calling it a deliberate policy of cruel and inhumane abductions that is tearing apart families. They demanded that Russia “account for the whereabouts of these children.”
►Two alleged Russian agents were detained by Ukrainian counterintelligence officials in Kherson and Odessa. According to investigators, the detainees revealed the secret bases of Ukraine forces in Kherson to the Russians during occupation of the city.
►The Russian and Belarusian air forces began two weeks of joint exercises Monday in Belarus, which borders Ukraine and served as a staging ground for Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
►Ukrainian Yulianna Tunitskaya won the gold medal at the 2023 Youth Luge World Championship in Austria.
DEATH TOLL RISES: Russian missile strike destroys Ukraine apartments; Zelenskyy vows revenge
Soldiers from the Armed Forces of Ukraine have arrived at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to begin Patriot air defense training, the Pentagon said. The same instructors who teach U.S., allied and partner nations will conduct the Ukrainian training, “and these classes will not detract from the ongoing training missions,” the Pentagon statement said. The training is expected to take several months.
Last week the Pentagon announced that about 100 Ukrainians would be trained in the Patriot missile defense system to help counter Russia’s barrage of its civilian population and infrastructure. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy lobbied for months for the system, saying it would make a significant difference in bolstering Kyiv’s defenses. The U.S. pledged one Patriot battery in December as part of one of several large military assistance packages, and last week Germany pledged another one. The truck-mounted launching systems can hold up to four missile interceptors, a ground radar, a control station and a generator.
Rinat Akhmetov, owner of one of Ukraine’s most successful soccer teams, pledged $25 million to help families of soldiers who defended Mariupol before the city fell to the Russian military in the spring. Akhmetov announced the donation one day after the team, Shakhtar Donetsk, completed a deal worth up to $108 million to sell winger Mykhailo Mudryk to Chelsea in the British Premier League. Shakhtar said the money pledged by Akhmetov did not come from the soccer transfer. Akhmetov says the donation will fund medical and psychological support for soldiers and their families.
Shaktar Donetsk is from the Donetsk region, home to Mariupol and some of the fiercest fighting in the war. The team, currently in second place in Ukraine’s 16-team league, has temporarily moved to the western city of Lviv.
The Kremlin appears to be preparing to conduct a decisive strategic action in the next six months intended to regain the initiative and end Ukraine’s current string of operational successes, a Washington-based think tank warns. The Institute for the Study of War says in its most recent assessment that while Russian President Vladimir Putin has not changed his objectives for the war, “there is emerging evidence that he is changing fundamental aspects of Russia’s approach to the war.” Russia is forming new divisions, attempting to reinvigorate its defense industrial base and attempting to correct command-structure deficiencies, the assessment says.
“The Kremlin retains its maximalist goals to seize all of Ukraine, despite its poor conduct of the war to date,” the assessment says.
Germany’s embattled Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht resigned Monday after spending most of her year on the job embroiled in controversy, starting with questions about her qualifications for the post. She drew criticism for German government’s hesitation to send weapons to Ukraine even before the war began. While the U.S. and other nations provided weapons in preparation for Russia’s invasion last February, Germany offered to supply 5,000 military helmets. Most recently she was condemned for a New Year’s Eve message she posted on social media in which she discussed the war in Ukraine with the sound of fireworks in the background.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz was expected to name her replacement Tuesday.
Contributing: The Associated Press