Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Photo
- A Ukrainian official resigned after suggesting Russia did not target a Dnipro apartment block with a missile.
- Oleksiy Arestovych said Ukraine shot down the Russian missile that hit the block, killing 44.
- The remarks caused outrage in Ukraine, and handed the Kremlin a PR coup.
A Ukrainian presidential advisor has offered his resignation after suggesting that the Russian missile that killed dozens of civilians in an apartment block in Dnipro was shot down by Ukraine‘s forces before it hit the building.
Oleksiy Arestovych posted the statement to Facebook on Tuesday after an uproar over what he described as his “prematurely erroneous” assessment of how the missile struck the Dnipro block, per Al Jazeera’s translation.
There was an international outcry after a massive Russian KH-22 missile slammed into the residential block on Saturday. The death toll was 44, the Associated Press reported as of Tuesday, citing local authorities.
Arestovych told Mark Feygin, on his YouTube channel with 2 million subscribers, that the missile was “shot down,” before it struck the building, according to independent Russian outlet Meduza. “It fell on an entryway. It exploded as it fell,” he reportedly said.
On Monday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied that Russia has targeted residential buildings, pointing to “statements by some [Ukrainian] officials,” state-owned news agency TASS reported.
Russian missiles have repeatedly struck residential buildings throughout the war. In October, the UN warned that those attacks appeared coordinated, and as such could be counted as war crimes, Voice of America reported.
Contrary to Arestovych’s statement, Ukraine’s air force said that the country doesn’t have the capability to shoot down the type of missile Russia used on Saturday, which has been dubbed an “aircraft carrier killer.”
Residents of the building also disagreed with Arestovych’s assessment, according to Ukraine’s Pravda newspaper. One survivor, named only as Olha, told the paper: “My husband and I often heard the air defence systems operating. This time it was not the air defence!”
One Ukrainian MP, Solomiya Bobrovska, said on Facebook that she was gathering support from other politicians to condemn Arestovych’s comments.
In his role as an external communications advisor to the Ukrainian president’s office, Arestovych has held daily briefings on Russia’s invasion, and has gathered a significant social media following. In his Facebook statement, he offered his “sincere apologies to the victims and their relatives,” according to Reuters.
It is unclear if Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accepted his resignation.