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Ukrainian adviser quits after claims Russian missile killed dozens | Ukraine

Ukrainian adviser quits after claims Russian missile killed dozens | Ukraine

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An adviser to Ukraine’s president has resigned after sparking widespread outrage when he suggested a Russian missile that killed dozens was shot down by Ukraine.

45 people were killed in the south central city of Dnipro when a Russian X-22 anti-ship ballistic missile hit an apartment block on Saturday. Rescuers called off the search on Tuesday, with 20 people still missing.

In comments on a YouTube channel hours after the attack, Oleksiy Arestovich said the missile detonated after being shot down by Ukrainian air defense forces.

“The rocket was shot down, fell on the driveway and exploded when it fell,” he told Feigin Live.

Hundreds of Ukrainian civil society members and several prominent figures took to social media in the days since, demanding that the presidential administration fire Arestovych over unverified statements. They said the comments aided Russian propaganda, which often portrays the attacks as the fault of Ukraine’s armed forces.

In a statement that did not directly address the remarks, Ukraine’s air defense forces said they did not currently have the technological capabilities to detect or shoot down ballistic missiles.

Oleksiy Arestovich. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Arestovich refused to apologize for two days, blaming fatigue and saying it was “a theory” presented by a friend who happened to be near the scene. Then on Tuesday, Arestovic posted a photo of his resignation letter on Facebook, saying it was an “example of civilized behavior” in light of his “fundamental mistake.”

The spokesman of President Volodymyr Zelensky, Sergey Nikoforov, confirmed that the resignation had been accepted. The former actor and politician was appointed as a freelance adviser to the presidential administration in 2020.

Mourners at a funeral ceremony on Tuesday for one of the victims - Mykhailo Korenovski, a boxing coach - of the Dnipro attack.
Mourners at a funeral ceremony on Tuesday for one of the victims – Mykhailo Korenovski, a boxing coach – of the Dnipro attack. Photo: Artem Baidala/EPA

In the first few weeks of the invasion, Arestovych was one of the most followed figures and sources of information in Ukraine. He was open about the fact that he was creating upbeat content to comfort an otherwise harried Ukrainian society, and called himself “soothing” for Ukraine.

By spring, however, his popularity and perceived credibility had waned. Far fewer people wanted to hear and would believe his predictions. His declaration that the war would last only two or three weeks became a peak moment for his detractors.

Commenting on Hromadske TV, media expert Oksana Moroz said that Arestovic “gives (people) something good… They stopped, or maybe they didn’t want to analyze what was said.”

His critics also said he described his wartime assessments as based on insider information when he was never on the staff and therefore not part of the president’s inner circle. The presidential office plays a careful game with Arestovic, often distancing itself from him but also acknowledging his viewership.

In August, official adviser Mihajlo Podaljak said Arestovic was not on staff, saying “he talks so much that we made him an adviser to the whole office”. The head of the presidential administration, Andriy Yermak, said he “respects Arestovich” for the role he plays with his “army of fans”.


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