An adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said on Tuesday that he would resign after an uproar over remarks that the adviser made in the wake of a Russian missile strike that left at least 44 people dead in the city of Dnipro.
Ukrainian lawmakers had called for the dismissal of the adviser, Oleksii Arestovych, after he suggested, in a televised interview shortly after the attack in Dnipro on Saturday, that the Russian missile had been struck by Ukraine’s air defense system and then crashed into a nine-story apartment building.
Ukrainian officials said that the missile that struck the building was a Kh-22, a long-range Russian anti-ship missile, that had not been intercepted, and that the evidence from the scene pointed to a direct strike on the building.
The death toll in the Dnipro attack had risen to 44 by Tuesday afternoon, according to Ukraine’s State Emergency Service, adding that search and rescue efforts had been called off. The strike was one of the deadliest single incidents for civilians since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February.
“The Armed Forces of Ukraine have no weapons capable of shooting down this type of missile,” Hanna Maliar, the deputy defense minister, said in a statement. The Ukrainian Air Force also said that the country’s armed forces did not have the right equipment to shoot down the missile, and added: “Since the beginning of Russia’s military aggression, more than 210 missiles of this type have been launched at the territory of Ukraine. None of them has been shot down by air defense systems.”
Britain’s defense ministry said on Tuesday that Russia had “falsely implied a Ukrainian air defense missile was responsible” for the attack on Dnipro, adding that an anti-ship missile was probably used in the attack. The ministry also noted that such an anti-ship missile is “notoriously inaccurate when used against ground targets, as its radar guidance system is poor at differentiating targets in urban areas.”
Mr. Arestovych apologized in a post on Facebook the day after making his comment, but it had already drawn intense public scrutiny.
On Tuesday morning, he posted a brief handwritten letter on his Facebook page addressed to Andriy Yermak, the head of Mr. Zelensky’s office, asking to resign “due to my own wishes.” There was no immediate comment from Mr. Zelensky.
Mr. Arestovych has been criticized before for careless comments, but these struck a particular nerve, especially because they were seized upon by pro-Russian news media outlets and bloggers who pointed to it as evidence that the Ukrainians were somehow at fault.
Solomiia Bobrovska, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, said in a post on her Facebook page that she and at least 19 other lawmakers had called for Mr. Arestovych’s dismissal and for him to be investigated by the country’s security service.