Ukraine demands ‘strong global response’ against Russia over deadly train strike
Ukraine has called for more weapons and tougher penalties after blaming Russia for a missile attack that killed at least 52 people at a train station crowded with women, children and the elderly fleeing the train. threat of a Russian offensive in the east.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the strike in Kramatorsk, in the eastern Donetsk region, a deliberate attack on civilians. The town’s mayor estimated that around 4,000 people had gathered there at the time.
The United States, the European Union and Britain have condemned the attack which took place on the same day that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen traveled to Kyiv to show solidarity and speeding up Ukraine’s accession process.
“We expect a strong global response to this war crime,” Zelensky said in a video posted late Friday.
“Any delay in supplying … arms to Ukraine, any refusal, can only mean that the politicians in question want to help the Russian leadership more than us,” he said, calling for an embargo on the ban. energy and cutting off all Russian banks from the world market. system.
Regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said the station was hit by a Tochka U short-range ballistic missile containing cluster munitions, which exploded in mid-air, spraying small, deadly bomblets over a wider area.
Reuters was unable to verify what happened in Kramatorsk.
The invasion of Moscow, which began more than six weeks ago, has seen more than four million people flee abroad, killed or injured thousands, left a quarter of the population homeless and transformed cities in rubble as it lasts longer than expected by Russia.
Cluster munitions are banned under a 2008 convention. Russia has not signed it but has previously denied using such weapons in Ukraine.
In Washington, a senior defense official said the United States “did not accept the Russians’ denial that they were not responsible” and believed Russian forces had fired a short-range ballistic missile used in the of the attack.
The Russian Defense Ministry, quoted by the RIA news agency, said the missiles which allegedly hit the station were used only by the Ukrainian army and that the Russian armed forces had no assigned targets. in Kramatorsk on Friday.
Moscow has denied targeting civilians since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the February 24 invasion of Ukraine in what Russia calls a “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” its neighbor.
kyiv and Western supporters call it a pretext for an unprovoked invasion.
Ukrainian officials now expect an attempt by Russian forces to take full control of Donetsk and the nearby city of Luhansk, both of which have been partly held by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.
The Kremlin said on Friday that the “special operation” could end in the “foreseeable future”, with its goals achieved thanks to the work of the Russian military and peace negotiators.
The White House said it would support attempts to investigate the Kramatorsk attack, which British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said showed “the depths to which Putin’s vaunted army has sunk”.
At least 52 people died in the incident, Pavlo Kirilenko, head of the Donetsk regional military administration, said in an online post.
The wreckage of the missile bore the words “(it’s) for children” on its side. Russia has for years accused Ukraine of killing civilians, including children, in strikes in separatist-held eastern Ukraine.
As Russia focuses on the east, Ukrainian forces said late Friday they repelled seven Russian attacks, destroying nine tanks, seven other armored vehicles and two helicopters. Reuters could not independently verify this.
After a partial Russian withdrawal near kyiv, a forensic team began exhuming a mass grave in the town of Bucha on Friday. Authorities say hundreds of dead civilians were found there.
Witness to “the unthinkable”
Visiting the city on Friday, von der Leyen said he witnessed “the unthinkable”.
She then handed Zelensky a questionnaire to serve as a starting point for the EU to decide on membership, telling him: “It won’t be a matter of years as usual to form this opinion but I think a matter of weeks.”
The bloc also overcame some divisions to pass new sanctions, including import bans on coal, timber, chemicals and other goods, as well as freezing EU assets belonging to Putin’s daughters and to other oligarchs.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said a possible oil ban would be discussed on Monday, but called oil sanctions a “big elephant in the room” as the continent is heavily dependent on the EU. Russian energy.
The United States on Friday expanded its export restrictions against Russia and ally Belarus, restricting access to imports of items such as fertilizers and pipe valves.
More military support for Kyiv
kyiv wants heavier arms deliveries and on Thursday secured a new commitment from the NATO alliance to supply a wide range of weapons.
Slovakia has donated its S-300 air defense system to Ukraine, while Britain will send an additional $130 million in military support.
In Prague, defense sources said the Czech Republic had delivered tanks, rocket launchers, howitzers and infantry fighting vehicles, and would ship more.
Meanwhile, residents of areas north of kyiv still accepted the month-long occupation.
In the village of Yahidne, residents told how more than 300 people were trapped for weeks in a school basement, with the names of those who did not survive or were killed by soldiers scribbled on the wall.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the villagers’ accounts. Reporters saw a freshly dug grave and two bodies wrapped in white plastic sheeting.
Concerns about busy station
The Ukrainian gas transmission network operator, which oversees the gas pipeline network that transports about 20% of the natural gas that Russia supplies to Europe, warned friday that the occupation of a compressor station in Novopskov, in the Lugansk region of eastern Ukraine, threatened the integrity of the transmission network.
Russian forces and Moscow-backed separatist fighters took control of the station soon after the Russian invasion began on February 24 and are now interfering with the operation of the station, CEO Sergiy Makogon said.
“If we can’t operate the station remotely… [and] we cannot control the equipment, it will create a significant threat to the mechanical integrity of the gas transmission system,” he told CBC News by phone from western Ukraine.
The station impacts about a third of the international gas supply passing through the country, he said. Russia supplied around 45% of the European Union’s natural gas imports last year.
“We have officially warned Gazprom and, in fact, warned Russia if they continue to try to interfere in our technological processes, we will have to close transit for this particular interconnection point,” Makogon said.
Gazprom, the Russian state energy company that supplies the gas, could not be reached for comment, but Moscow has said in the past that it will guarantee the safety of operations and equipment at Novopskov, according to Reuters.
Makogon said cellular communication in the area is limited but staff have stayed in contact with station employees. He said the workers said authorities in the breakaway Luhansk region had told them they intended to nationalize the compressor stations.
“Of course they are very worried,” he said. “So really, it’s a very difficult situation, but they are doing everything possible to continue gas transportation, even in these temporarily occupied territories.”