Ukraine’s Dnipro reels as Russia, Belarus hold military drills

 The toll from a devastating missile strike in Dnipro has risen as more bodies are pulled from the debris of one of the deadliest attacks since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began 11 months ago.

Residents gathered on Mon­day to watch as cranes removed collapsed sections of the Sovi­et-style residential building that was ripped open by the strike in central Ukraine two days earlier.

Ukraine’s emergency services said 40 people had died, including three children, and 34 people were still unaccounted for.

Kyiv blamed Moscow for the attack, but the Kremlin said Rus­sian forces were not responsible and pointed to an unsubstantiated theory circulating on social media that Ukrainian air defence systems had caused the damage.

“The Russian armed forces do not strike residential buildings or social infrastructure. They strike military targets,” Kremlin spokes­man, Dmitry Peskov, said, suggest­ing Kyiv’s air defences knocked a Russian missile off course.

Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, said late on Sunday that search operations would go on as long as necessary and condemned Russia’s “cowardly silence” over the attack, but the chances of finding more survivors appeared slim by Monday afternoon.

The rising cost of the strike came as Russia and its close ally Belarus held joint military drills.

Belarus, one of the only coun­tries that has supported Russia without question throughout the conflict, allowed Moscow’s forces to launch their invasion from Belar­usian territory in February.

Its defence ministry said the air force exercises would involve joint “tactical” flights and every airfield in Belarus would be involved.

“The exercise is purely defen­sive in nature,” Pavel Muraveyko, first deputy state secretary of the Belarusian Security Council, said in remarks released on Sunday by the defence ministry. -Al Jazeera And News Agen­cies

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