Missile kills at least 52 at crowded Ukrainian train station

KYIV, Ukraine – A missile struck a train station in eastern Ukraine where thousands gathered on Friday, killing at least 52 people and wounding dozens more in an attack on a crowd of mostly women and children who were trying to flee a new Russian offensive threat, the Ukrainian authorities mentioned.

The attack that some were denouncing as another war crime in the 6-week conflict came as workers dug up bodies from a mass grave in Bucha, a town near Ukraine’s capital where dozens of murders were documented after a Russian withdrawal.

Photos of the Kramatorsk station showed the dead covered with tarpaulins and the remains of a rocket with the words “Kids” painted on it in Russian. About 4,000 civilians were in and around the station, responding to calls to leave before fighting escalated in the Donbass region, Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who said he expected global response lasts, and other leaders have accused Russia of deliberately attacked the army station. Russia, in turn, blamed Ukraine, saying it did not use the type of missile that hit the resort – a claim rejected by the experts.

Zelenskyy told Ukrainians in his Friday night video address that great efforts would be taken “to establish every minute who did what, who gave what orders, where the missile came from, who was carrying it, who gave the command and how this strike was agreed for.”

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the regional governor of Donetsk, in the Donbass, said that 52 people were killed, including five children, and dozens more injured.

“There are a lot of people in serious condition, without arms or legs,” Kramatorsk Mayor Oleksandr Goncharenko said. Even with 30 to 40 surgeons working, the local hospital is struggling, he says.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace denounced the attack as a war crime, and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called it “completely unacceptable”.

“There are almost no words for it,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Ukraine, told reporters. “The cynical behavior (Russia) has almost no reference more. »

Ukrainian authorities and Western officials have repeatedly accused Russian forces of atrocities in the war that began with the February 24 invasion. More than 4 million Ukrainians have fled the country and millions more have been displaced. Some of the most startling evidence of atrocities has been found in towns around Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, from where Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops have withdrawn in recent days.

In Bucha, Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said investigators had discovered at least three sites of mass shootings of civilians and continued to find bodies in courtyards, parks and city squares – 90% of which had been shot.

Russia falsely claimed that Bucha’s scenes were staged.

On Friday, workers removed corpses from a mass grave near a city church in the pouring rain, lining up black body bags in rows in the mud.

About 67 people were buried in the grave, according to a statement from Attorney General Iryna Venediktova’s office, which is investigating the deaths and other mass casualties involving civilians as possible war crimes.

“Like the Bucha massacres, like many other Russian war crimes, the missile attack on Kramatorsk should be one of the charges in court that must be upheld,” Zelenskyy said, his voice rising in anger on Friday. evening.

The killings around kyiv came to light when Russian forces withdrew after failing to take the capital in the face of fierce resistance. Russian troops have now set their sights on Donbass, the predominantly Russian-speaking industrial region where Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years and control some areas.

A senior US defense official said Friday that the Pentagon believes some of the retreating units have been so damaged that they are “for all intents and purposes wiped out.” Official intervenes on condition of anonymity to discuss internal military evaluations.

The official did not say how many units have suffered such extensive damage. Overall, the official said the US believes Russia has lost between 15% and 20% of its combat power since the war began. While some combat units withdrew to resupply Russia, Moscow added thousands of troops around the second largest city of Ukraine, Kharkiv, he said.

“The Russian world, as they say,” Lidiya Mezhiritska said after overnight missile strikes damaged her Kharkiv home, wryly invoking Putin’s nationalist justification for invading Ukraine. “People, children, old people, women are dying. I don’t have a machine gun. I definitely go (fight) no matter the age.”

The affected station is located in territory controlled by the Ukrainian government in the Donbass, but Russia has insisted that she was not the source of the attack. Its Defense Ministry has accused Ukraine of having executed, in a statement published by the state news agency RIA Novosti. It was the same for the separatist region backed by Moscow, working closely with the Russian regular troops.

Experts have refuted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov’s claim that Russian forces “do not use” this type of missile, saying Russia used it during the war. An analyst added that only Russia would have reason to target rail infrastructure in the Donbass.

“The Ukrainian military is desperately trying to build up units in the area…and train stations in this area in Ukrainian-held territory are essential for the movement of goods and people,” said Justin Bronk, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute London.

Bronk pointed to other occasions when Russian authorities tried to deflect blame by claiming that their forces were no longer using an older weapon “to sort of cover their tracks and try to sow doubt.” He also suggested that Russia specifically chose the type of missile because Ukraine also has one.

A Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence, also said Russian forces used the missile – and given the location of the strike and the impact, it was “likely” the Russia, but they could not officially attribute to Moscow.

The strikes come as Russia concentrates its equipment and troops and increases shelling and shelling ahead of an expected attack, said Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region in Donbass.

“We feel the end of preparations for this massive breakthrough for this great battle that will take place here around us,” he said in a televised address.

Ukrainian officials have pleaded almost daily with Western powers to send more weapons and punish Russia further with sanctions and the exclusion of Russian banks from the global financial system.

NATO countries agreed on Thursday to increase their arms supply, and Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger announced during a trip to Ukraine on Friday that his country has donated its S-300 air defense system from the Soviet era in Ukraine. Zelenskyy had appealed for S-300s to help the country “close to the skies” with Russian warplanes and missiles.

US and Slovak officials said the US would next deploy a Patriot missile system to Slovakia.

Heger accompanied von der Leyen and the EU’s foreign policy Josep Borrell in kyiv, part of efforts to mark the EU support for Ukraine. After meeting Zelenskyy Friday during which the Ukrainian president called on the EU to impose a total embargo on oil and Russian gas, von der Leyen has provided a questionnaire is the first step in the application for EU membership.

In anticipation of intensified attacks by Russian forces elsewhere, hundreds of Ukrainians have fled from attacked or occupied villages in the southern regions of Mykolaiv and Kherson.

“They are waiting for a big battle,” said Marina Morozova, who fled Kherson with her husband. Kherson was the first major city to fall to the Russians and is the scene of constant fighting.

Morozova, 69, said Russian television and radio was available there. The Russians handed over the humanitarian aid, she said, and filmed the distribution.

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James H. Wright