Ukraine live briefing: 45 killed in apartment strike, Zelensky says; presidential adviser resigns for ‘fundamental error’

Ukrainian artillerymen fire an L119 howitzer towards Russian positions at a front line in the Luhansk region on Jan. 16. (AFP Contributor#AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
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Fatalities from a weekend strike on a Dnipro apartment have risen to at least 45 Ukrainians — including an 11-month-old boy — and the number of injured people is now 79, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday in his nightly address.

An adviser to Zelensky resigned after suggesting that Ukrainian air defense systems may have been responsible for the deadly strike on Saturday. Oleksiy Arestovych later distanced himself from the remarks, which the Kremlin used to cast doubt on who was to blame for the destruction. He apologized on Ukrainian television and said in a letter announcing his resignation that he had made a “fundamental error.”

Ukrainian forces have arrived in the United States to begin training focused on the Patriot air defense system, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • Authorities do not expect to find many more survivors in Dnipro. The State Emergency Service of Ukraine reported Tuesday that at least 44 people were dead, including four children, and 20 were missing. Britain’s Defense Ministry said it was “highly likely” that a Russian bomber hit the Dnipro building with an AS-4 “Kitchen” anti-ship missile, adding that the missile is notoriously inaccurate in urban settings. Zelensky said Tuesday that officials receive more information about the attack every day. “And all this will end with sentences for all these Russian murderers,” he said.
  • Training has begun for about 90 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said at a briefing Tuesday. The training will focus on the use of the Patriot air defense system and will last several months, he said. Oklahoma state Sen. Nathan Dahm (R) said last week that he filed a resolution to reject foreign soldiers on Oklahoma soil. “The last thing we need is them misfiring a missile into Oklahoma,” he said in a Jan. 11 tweet.
  • Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Tuesday that the Netherlands plans to “join” efforts to train and arm Ukraine with Patriot defense systems, the Associated Press reported. In remarks ahead of a bilateral meeting with President Biden at the White House, Rutte said: “We have the intention to join what you are doing with Germany on the Patriot project.” It was unclear whether the Netherlands plans to send Patriot systems to Ukraine or to participate in the training. Zelensky thanked Rutte in his evening speech to the nation.
  • “The world hears Ukraine in Davos,” Zelensky said during his nightly address in reference to the World Economic Forum that just began in Switzerland. “I am confident that following this week, the world will see more active and influential supporters of the establishment of a tribunal for Russian aggression and a special mechanism to compensate for the losses from the war at the expense of Russian assets,” he said. Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska is in attendance.
On Jan. 16, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for faster weapons deliveries in the wake of a deadly Russian missile strike in Dnipro. (Video: Reuters)

2. Battleground updates

  • Russian forces made additional territorial gains north of the front-line city of Bakhmut and may be intensifying attacks south of Bakhmut near Klishchiivka, analysts at the Institute for the Study of War think tank said in their latest battleground update.
  • Ukraine’s army is retaining its positions in Soledar, an army official told The Washington Post, following claims by pro-Russian forces that the small salt mining town in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region was captured Tuesday. “Our positions remain,” Ukrainian army spokesman Serhiy Cherevaty said. Soledar has been the scene of a “bloodbath,” its regional governor said last week, as Russian forces attempt to capture the town, which is a gateway to the contested city of Bakhmut.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited the headquarters of the Vostok group, a battalion that has been fighting in eastern Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a Telegram post Tuesday. The ministry said he received an update from Lt. Gen. Rustam Muradov, commander of the Eastern Military District, which covers troops based in Russia’s Far East, many of whom are deployed in Ukraine.
  • German tanks requested by Ukraine wouldn’t be battle-ready until 2024, arms manufacturer Rheinmetall said. “Even if the decision to send our Leopard tanks to Kyiv came tomorrow, the delivery would take until the start of next year,” Rheinmetall’s chief executive, Armin Papperger, told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has not committed to sending the tanks.
  • The question of military aid will be front and center this week, as top U.S. officials and allies meet in Europe to discuss support for Ukrainian forces — including growing calls for advanced air defense systems and tanks. The NATO chiefs of defense will gather in Brussels on Wednesday to talk about the war in Ukraine and other issues. On Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will meet at Ramstein Air Base in Germany with officials from roughly 50 states. Some of Ukraine’s allies want the coalition to send more sophisticated weapons, arguing that a more advanced air defense, while necessary to protect civilians, will not itself shift battlefield dynamics. For that, proponents argue, Ukraine needs additional heavy weapons, including heavy tanks. But it is not yet clear if that will happen.

3. Global impact

  • A Russian man who was apparently a commander with the private military contractor Wagner Group is seeking asylum in Norway, the Associated Press reported. Norwegian immigration authorities identified him as Andrey Medvedev, the AP reported. A lawyer acting on the man’s behalf did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment from The Post.
  • NATO defense chiefs are gathering in Brussels on Wednesday, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will join members of the Ukraine Contact Group, a body of about 50 nations that meets to discuss Kyiv’s military needs, on Thursday.
  • Boris Pistorius will be sworn in as Germany’s new defense minister Thursday, the government announced. The interior minister of the German state of Lower Saxony will replace Christine Lambrecht, who resigned after missteps sparked a debate about her ability to lead the country’s response to the war in Ukraine. Criticism of her handling of the ministry during the crisis mounted after she gave a New Year’s message on video that was faulted for being tone-deaf, as well as revelations that she took her son on a government helicopter.

4. From our correspondents

Top U.S. general meets Ukrainian counterpart near edge of war zone: Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Tuesday met in person with his Ukrainian counterpart for the first time, traveling by vehicle from a base here in Poland to an undisclosed location near the countries’ border in what appeared to be a symbolic show of support as Washington intensifies its military assistance to Ukraine, writes The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe.

Milley spent a couple of hours with Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, the top officer in Ukraine’s armed forces, said Col. David Butler, a U.S. military spokesman. The meeting was arranged after it became clear that Zaluzhny would not be able to attend a meeting Wednesday of senior NATO military officials in Brussels. Milley met the Ukrainian officer with a group that included five other Americans, an interpreter and security personnel. News of the meeting was withheld until it concluded, with officials citing safety precautions.

“They both thought it was important,” Butler said of the meeting. “It’s important that two very important military officials look at each other in the eye when they talk about very important topics. It makes a difference.”

Karen DeYoung and Loveday Morris contributed to this report.