KIEV.- The European Union (EU) declared on Monday that the Russian attack over the weekend against an apartment building in the Ukrainian town of Dnipro, which left at least 36 dead, constitutes a “war crime”.

The government of Sweden, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, called the act “horrendous.” “We condemn in the strongest terms the continued systematic attacks on civilians… including Saturday’s missile attack on an apartment block in Dnipro,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersso told reporters.

“Intentional attacks against civilians are war crimes. Those found responsible will be held accountable, ”he added at a joint press conference with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel.

The worst civilian attack in months

Some 1,700 people lived in the multi-story building, and neighbors said there were no military installations on the site. The reported death toll makes it the deadliest attack in a single location since a Sept. 30 bombing attack in Ukraine’s Zaporizhia region, according to The Associated Press and Frontline’s War Crimes Watch project.

According to the Ukrainian National Police, among the fatalities were two children and another 15 among the 75 injured. So far, 39 people, including six children, had been pulled from the rubble. In addition, 30 missing persons were reported. The police continue with the search and rescue efforts.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, described the attack and others like it as an “inhuman aggression” because it was directed against civilians. “There will be no impunity for these crimes,” he tweeted on Sunday.

Disagreement on the facts

Russia denied responsibility for the attack and raised an unsubstantiated theory circulating on social media that the tragedy was caused by the Ukrainian air defense system.

“The Russian armed forces do not bombard residential buildings or civilian infrastructure. They are bombing military targets,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov told reporters. Furthermore, he suggested that the block on Dnipro could have been hit by Ukrainian anti-aircraft fire.

However, the Ukrainian army responded to this assumption and declared yesterday that it does not have the means to intercept missiles such as the Russian projectile used in Saturday’s attack.

Russia has resumed widespread airstrikes as heavy fighting continues in the eastern province of Donetsk, where the Russian army claims to have taken the small mining town of Soledar, though Ukraine says its troops are still fighting. It was not possible to independently verify the situation.
Donetsk and the neighboring province of Luhansk make up Donbas, a vast industrial region that borders Russia and that Russian President Vladimir Putin has identified as his priority since the start of the war. Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting kyiv forces in the area since 2014.

What plans does Russia have for the future of the war?

For their part, the Russian and Belarusian air forces began joint exercises in Belarus that would last until February 1, according to the Belarusian Defense Ministry. Russia sent fighter jets to Belarus for the exercises.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, reported signs that the Kremlin is moving to turn its invasion of Ukraine into “a major conventional war” after months of embarrassing military setbacks.
Moscow describes the campaign as “a special military operation” and aimed to capture the Ukrainian capital in a matter of weeks and install a pro-Kremlin government. However, Russian forces ended up withdrawing from the kyiv area, the study group noted. Then came a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive in recent months, before the onset of winter halted military advances.

“The Kremlin is likely preparing to take decisive strategic action in the next six months aimed at regaining the initiative and ending Ukraine’s current string of operational successes,” the Institute for the Study of War said in a report Sunday by the night.
The group pointed to reports that the Russian military command is making “serious preparations” for an expanded mobilization campaign that would retain already mobilized personnel for future use, as well as expand its military industrial output and restructure its chain of command.
That implies that Ukraine’s Western allies “will have to continue to support Ukraine in the long term,” the center added.

So far, more than 7,000 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

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