Ukraine ends search at missile-hit tower block

Rescuers called off the search Tuesday for victims of the Russian missile strike in the city of Dnipro with 20 people still missing and funerals taking place in the grief-stricken Ukrainian city.

The toll has climbed to 45 killed, making Saturday's strike one of the deadliest attacks since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly 11 months ago, but the Kremlin denies responsibility.

In Dnipro, residents gathered around the coffin of Ukrainian boxing coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky.

"He gave many a start in life," said Taras Ivanov, whose son trained with coach Korenovsky.

"This loss has affected our family... everything inside me is shaking," the father told AFP near the funeral.

Ukraine's presidency said earlier that one of the bodies recovered from the rubble Tuesday was that of a child. Officials have said six children total were among the dead.

Municipal workers clearing out the partially collapsed Soviet-designed housing block removed more than 9,000 tonnes of construction debris and 41 damaged cars since the rescue work began on Saturday.

At 1:00 pm (1100 GMT), emergency services said the search and rescue operations at the site of the rocket attack were completed.

"Twenty people are still missing," the emergency services said.

In Moscow a few residents laid flowers in the snow in memory of those killed in the weekend strike, at the monument to the famous Ukrainian poetess Lesya Ukrainka.

- UK backing -

The attack also triggered the resignation of a Ukrainian official who had sparked an outcry by suggesting air defence could have been responsible by intercepting a Russian missile, which then fell on the building.

"I want to show an example of civilised behaviour: a fundamental mistake, then resign," presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovych wrote on social media, posting a picture of his handwritten letter.

The Ukrainian army said the block was hit by an X-22 Russian missile that it does not have the capacity to shoot down.

Kyiv has called for more weapons to defend itself and at the weekend received pledges of British tanks, but Russian President Vladimir Putin warned more armaments would only intensify fighting and the Kremlin vowed to burn the gear.

On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said "the message we're sending to Putin -- and, frankly, anyone else that cares to be watching -- is that we made a commitment to support Ukrainians until they are victorious" by promising new weapons.

- Fighting in Donetsk -

Although the toll from the Dnipro attack is the highest of any recent single strike, Ukraine said Tuesday that fighting was continuing across the frontline.

AFP journalists in the eastern town of Bakhmut witnessed heavy shelling.

Outside the city, servicemen dug new trenches while tanks and armored vehicles rolled passed.

"It's like Verdun out there," said military ambulance driver Ivan, referring to the notorious World War I battle.

Uncertainty still surround the fate of Donetsk' war-scarred town of Soledar that Russia claims to have captured.

Capturing Soledar could improve the position of Russian forces as they push toward what has been their main target since October, the nearby transport crossroads of Bakhmut.

Both sides have conceded heavy losses in the battle for the town, with Moscow desperate to sell any win back home after repeated humiliations and Ukraine determined to hold -- and win back -- ground.

A Ukrainian military spokesman said again Tuesday that fighting was ongoing.

"The Ukrainian military is in Soledar and is repulsing the Russian army," the spokesman for forces in east Ukraine, Sergiy Cherevaty, said.

The deputy head of Ukraine's presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said two people had been killed in the southern regions of Mykolaiv and Kherson by Russian shelling.

He also said two civilians were killed in the Donetsk region, which has been the epicentre of fighting in recent months.

bur/jmm