Ukrainian adviser resigns after claims of Russian missile killing dozens – The Guardian

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

Over 40 people were killed and 39 are still missing in the south-central city of Dnipro when a Russian X-22 anti-ship missile hit a block of flats on Saturday. Commenting on a YouTube channel where he appears daily hours after the attack, Oleksiy Arestovych said the missile detonated after it was shot down by Ukrainian air defense forces.

“The missile was launched, it fell on the driveway, it exploded as it fell,” he told Feigin Live.

Hundreds of Ukrainian civil society members and several prominent figures took to social media in the days that followed, urging the presidential administration to sack Arestovych over unconfirmed testimony. They said the comments supported Russian propaganda, which often portrays attacks as the fault of Ukrainian forces.

In a statement that didn’t directly address the comments, Ukraine’s Air Defense Forces said they don’t currently have the technological capabilities to detect or shoot down ballistic missiles.

Oleksiy ArestovychOleksiy Arestovych. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Arestovych refused to apologize for two days, blaming fatigue and explaining it was “a theory” put forward by a friend who happened to be near the crime scene. Then Arestovych posted a picture of his resignation letter on Facebook on Tuesday, saying it was “an example of civilized behavior” given his “fundamental error.”

A spokesman for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Serhiy Nykoforov, confirmed that the resignation had been accepted. The former actor and politician was appointed to the Presidential Administration in 2020 as a freelance, non-staff consultant.

Mourners at a memorial service on Tuesday for one of the victims - Mykhailo Korenovsky, a boxing trainer - of the Dnipro attack.Mourners at a memorial service on Tuesday for one of the victims – Mykhailo Korenovsky, a boxing trainer – of the Dnipro attack. Photo: Artem Baidala/EPA

In the first weeks of the invasion, Arestovych was one of the most watched figures and sources of information in Ukraine. He has been open about producing upbeat content to comfort an otherwise ailing Ukrainian society, describing himself as a “sedative” for Ukraine.

By spring, however, his popularity and perceived credibility had waned. Far fewer people would want to hear his predictions and would believe him. His statement that the war would last only two to three weeks became the high point of his critics.

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In comments to Hromadske TV, media expert Oksana Moroz said Arestovych “gives (people) something good… They stopped or maybe didn’t have the desire to analyze what was being said.”

His critics also said that he presented his wartime assessments as based on exclusive information, when he was never on the staff and therefore not part of the President’s inner circle. The Presidential Office has played a cautious game in relation to Arestovych, frequently distancing itself from him but also acknowledging his viewership.

In August, official adviser Mykhailo Podalyak said Arestovych was not an employee, stating: “He talks so much that we made him adviser to the whole bureau”. The head of the presidential administration, Andriy Yermak, said he “respects Arestovych” for the role he is playing with his “army of fans.”