The Kremlin on Monday, Jan. 16 made a series of dubious statements to reporters, denying responsibility for the deadly missile attack on a residential building in Dnipro, promising British tanks sent to Ukraine will "burn" and insisting that all was well on the battlefield.

 

Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was on top form once again, and without a hint of irony declared: "The Russian armed forces do not strike residential buildings or social infrastructure, they strike military targets."

 

He was of course referring to the devastating Russian missile strike on a residential building in Dnipro on Saturday. The death toll is 40 and rising and rescuers are still at the scene searching through the rubble in the vain hope there are more survivors.

 

Peskov told reporters that the disaster could actually have been caused by Ukrainian air defence systems. He did not provide any evidence of this and there is none to support his claim.

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He then moved onto the topic of tanks, discussing the 14 Challenger 2 heavy tanks recently pledged by Britain.

 

Peskov defiantly said: "The special military operation will continue. These tanks are burning and will burn. "

 

There have indeed been many burning tanks in Ukraine since the beginning of the reinvasion in February of last year but so far they have all been Russian.

 

According to the Netherlands-based research group Oryx, Russia has lost 1614 tanks of which 947 were destroyed, 73 were damaged, 59 abandoned and 535 were captured.

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After months of partisan infighting, the United States House of Representatives finally approved the major package in a vote Saturday, giving a morale boost to Ukrainian forces.

 

Undeterred by the inconvenience of reality, Peskov added that plans by some Western countries to send tanks to Ukraine will "not change the situation on the ground. It will only prolong this story."

 

Finally, he turned his attention to rumours of tensions between the Russian army and the Wagner mercenary force, following competing claims of battlefield wins in Ukraine.

 

Peskov suggested that the conflict had been invented by journalists and military bloggers. "It is mainly the product of information manipulation," Peskov told reporters. "They are all fighting for their motherland," Peskov said, referring to the army and Wagner, which was founded by Kremlin-linked businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin.

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Russia "must know and knows its heroes", he added. "It knows both the heroes who are serving in our armed forces... and the heroes from the Wagner PMC (private military company)."

 

Talk of rivalry between regular forces and the mercenary group has intensified after Prigozhin insisted last week his fighters had taken control of the salt-mining town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine.

 

He criticised attempts to "steal the victory" from Wagner. Prigozhin announced the capture of Soledar on Wednesday.

 

Russia's Defence Ministry was quick to rebuff his claim and then announced the "liberation" of the city two days later.

 

However, in an unusual recognition of the private fighting force, Russia's Defence Ministry on Friday praised Wagner forces as "courageous".

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