At least 52 killed by missile at crowded Ukrainian train station

kyiv, Ukraine (AP) — A missile struck a train station in eastern Ukraine where thousands of people had gathered Friday, killing at least 52 and wounding dozens more in an attack on a mostly crowd. by women and children trying to flee from a new and imminent Russian offensiveUkrainian authorities said.

The attack, denounced by some as another war crime in the 6-week-old conflict, came as workers unearthed bodies from a mass grave in Bucha, a town near Ukraine’s capital. where dozens of murders have been documented after a Russian withdrawal.

Photos from the station in Kramatorsk showed the dead covered with tarps and the remains of a rocket with the words “For the children” painted on in Russian. About 4,000 civilians had been in and around the station, heeding calls to leave before fighting in the Donbas region intensifies, Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who says he expects a tough global response, and other leaders accused the Russian military of deliberately attacking the station. Russia, in turn, blamed Ukraine, saying it does not use the type of missile that hit the station, a claim experts dismissed.

Zelenskyy told Ukrainians in his late-night video address on Friday that efforts would be made “to establish every minute of who did what, who gave what orders, where the missile came from, who transported it, who gave the order and how it was agreed.” this attack. .”

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

“There are many people in serious condition, without arms and legs,” Kramatorsk Mayor Oleksandr Goncharenko said, adding that the local hospital was struggling to treat everyone.

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 that,” European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Ukraine. “(Russia’s) cynical behavior has almost no reference point anymore.”

Ukrainian authorities and Western officials have repeatedly accused Russian forces of atrocities in the war that began with an invasion on February 24. More than 4 million Ukrainians have fled the country and millions more have been displaced. Some of the most lurid evidence 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 has said investigators found at least three sites of mass shootings of civilians and continued to find bodies in city yards, parks and squares, 90% of whom were shot.

Russia has falsely claimed that the scenes in Bucha were staged.

On Friday, workers pulled bodies from a mass grave near a town church in pouring rain, lining up black body bags in rows in the mud.

Some 67 people were buried in the grave, according to a statement from Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, which is investigating.

“Like the massacres in Bucha, like many other Russian war crimes, the missile attack in Kramatorsk should be one of the charges in court that needs to be carried out,” Zelenskyy said, his voice rising in anger. Friday night.

He expounded on that issue in an interview with excerpts from CBS’s “60 Minutes” that aired on Friday, citing communications intercepted by the Ukrainian security service.

“There are (Russian) soldiers talking to their parents (about) what they stole and who they kidnapped. There are recordings of (Russian) POWs admitting to killing people,” he said. “There are pilots in prison who had maps with civilian targets to bomb. Investigations are also being carried out based on the remains of the dead.”

Russian forces, who withdrew after failing to take the capital In the face of stiff resistance, they have now set their sights on Donbas, the largely 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 were so severely damaged that they are “for all intents and purposes eradicated.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal military assessments.

The official did not say how many units suffered such extensive damage, but said the United States believes Russia has lost 15% to 20% of its overall combat power since the war began. While some combat units are withdrawing to resupply in Russia, Moscow has added thousands of troops around Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, he said.

The attack on the train station is in Ukrainian government-controlled territory in the Donbas, but Russia insisted it was not behind the attack. Its Defense Ministry accused Ukraine of carrying it out, in a statement published by the state news agency RIA Novosti. So did Moscow-backed separatists in the region, who work closely with regular Russian troops.

Experts refuted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov’s claim that Russian forces “do not use” such a missile, saying Russia has used it during the war. One analyst added that only Russia would have reason to target rail infrastructure in the Donbas.

“The Ukrainian military is desperately trying to reinforce units in the area…and the train stations in that area in Ukrainian-controlled territory are critical for the movement of equipment and people,” said Justin Bronk, a researcher at Royal United Services. Institute in London.

Bronk pointed to other times Russian authorities have tried to deflect blame by claiming that their forces are no longer using an older weapon “to muddy the waters and try to create doubt.” He also suggested that Russia specifically chose the type of missile because Ukraine also has it.

A Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence, also said Russian forces have used the missile, and given the location and impact of the attack, it was “probably” Russian.

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

nato nations they agreed on Thursday to increase their arms supply, and Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger announced on a trip to Ukraine on Friday that his country has donated its Soviet-era S-300 air defense system to Ukraine. Zelenskyy had ordered S-300s to help the country “close the skies” to Russian fighter jets and missiles.

US and Slovak officials said the United States will deploy a Patriot missile system in Slovakia.

After meeting with Zelenskyy on Friday, during which he urged the EU to impose a full embargo on Russian oil and gas, von der Leyen handed him a questionnaire that is a first step in applying for EU membership.

Anticipating intensified attacks by Russian forces, hundreds of Ukrainians fled villages that were under fire or occupied in the southern Mykolaiv and Kherson regions.

In Kharkiv, Lidiya Mezhiritska stood in the rubble of her house after overnight missile strikes turned it into rubble.

“The ‘Russian world,’ as they say,” he said, wryly invoking Putin’s nationalist justification for invading Ukraine. “People, children, the elderly, women are dying. I don’t have a machine gun. I would definitely go (to fight), regardless of age.”

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