According to Ukrainian officials, Russian forces fired a missile at a railway station in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, that was being used by civilians fleeing the fighting, killing at least 50 people, including five children.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the regional military administration in Donetsk, where the attack occurred, said 98 people were injured, including 16 children, 46 women, and 36 men.
Nearly 300 people were injured in the strike, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“The Russian military hit the railway terminal,” Zelensky said in a speech to Finland’s parliament on Friday, adding, “There are witnesses, there are videos, there are remnants of the missiles, and there are dead people.”
At the station, he said, “people (were) crowded waiting for the trains to be evacuated to safe territory.” “Why do they feel the need to fire missiles at civilians? Why has the world witnessed such brutality in Bucha and other cities liberated by the Ukrainian army?” Zelensky posed the question to legislators.
The rockets hit a temporary waiting room where “hundreds of people were waiting for the evacuation train,” according to local police.
“This is yet another proof that Russia is killing civilian Ukrainians in a brutal, barbaric manner, with only one goal in mind: to kill,” the mayor of Kramatorsk said in a statement.
During the last two weeks, the mayor estimated that 8,000 people visited the station to evacuate. When the missile hit, up to 4,000 people were present.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, described the attack as a “deliberate slaughter.”
The Russian Ministry of Defense called the missile strike a “provocation” in a statement released Friday, echoing recent denials of the indiscriminate killing of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.
The Soviet-designed Tochka missile is in Ukrainian forces’ arsenal, but it has also been used by Russian and separatist forces in the past.
Russia’s military and senior officials have issued blanket denials of attacks against civilians, most recently claiming (without evidence) that the Bucha massacre was staged. The killing of civilians in the town during the Russian occupation has been well documented.
When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, the eastern city of Kramatorsk was one of the first targets for the Russian military. Ukrainians have been using the train station to evacuate the region since late February, according to Ihnatchenko.
According to Oleksandr Kamyshin, the head of Ukraine’s national rail system, two missiles struck the station. The Russian military used Iskander short-range ballistic missiles, according to Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk regional military administration.
Such attacks on civilians, according to Amanpour, tend to harden Western resolve and may push the European Union to impose even more sanctions on Russia. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Brussels has approved five rounds of sanctions against it. In Kyiv this week, Borrell and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will meet with Ukrainian President Zelensky.
According to Ukrainian authorities, the attack comes as Russian forces prepare for a massive operation in eastern Ukraine to retake the contested Donbas region.
The so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, two separatist enclaves that were recognized as independent by Russian President Vladimir Putin shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine, are located in Donbas.
The two regions have been the scene of a low-intensity war between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces for nearly eight years. More than 14,000 people have died as a result of the fighting, and Kyiv is bracing for more.
The “battle for Donbas,” according to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba, is already underway. He predicted that the fighting would be similar to the destructive battles of World War II, with “thousands of tanks, armored vehicles, planes, and artillery” involved in Moscow’s offensive.
Russian troops have “fully withdrawn” from northern Ukraine to Belarus and Russia, according to British intelligence, and many could be transferred to eastern Ukraine to fight in Donbas. Officials from Ukraine’s military say they’ve seen Russian forces massing to the east.