A missile hit a train station Friday where thousands of people had gathered to flee Russian attacks in eastern Ukraine, killing at least 50 people, Ukrainian officials said. Dozens more were injured.
Images from the scene showed covered bodies and people’s belongings on the ground around the station, in the city of Kramatorsk. A burned rocket was also found on the ground, with the words “for the children” painted on it in Russian.
About 4,000 civilians were in and around the station, the office of Ukraine’s prosecutor-general said. It added that most of the victims were women and children trying to leave the area. They had been warned that Russian forces were planning to launch a major new offensive in the country’s east, Ukrainian officials said.
Russia’s Defense Ministry denied attacking the station, which sits inside Ukraine’s contested Donbas area. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian leaders accused Russia’s military of targeting a place where only civilians were gathered.
“The inhuman Russians are not changing their methods,” Zelenskyy said on social media.
“Without the strength or courage to stand up to us on the battlefield, they are cynically destroying the civilian population,” he added. “This is an evil without limits. And if it is not punished, then it will never stop,” he said.
Britain’s Defense Minister Ben Wallace denounced the train station attack, saying “the striking of civilians and critical infrastructure is a war crime.”
“The people just wanted to get away for evacuation,” Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said. She spoke while visiting Bucha, a town north of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. Ukrainians discovered many bodies on the streets and in mass graves in Bucha after Russian troops withdrew.
Venediktova watched as workers pulled bodies from a mass grave near a church. Black body bags were placed next to each other in the mud. She said that none of the dead were Russians. Most of the victims had been shot. The prosecutor general’s office is investigating the deaths as possible war crimes.
Russia has failed to take Ukraine’s capital and moved its troops away from northern Ukraine. It has recently been sending troops into Donbas, a mostly Russian-speaking, industrial area in eastern Ukraine. Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years and control some areas. The train station attacked is in an area under Ukrainian government control.
This week, Ukrainian officials warned citizens in the area to leave as soon as possible for safer parts of the country. They said Russia had agreed to establish evacuation paths in the east.
One expert said only Russia would have a reason to attack civilian railway infrastructure in the Donbas, and that Ukraine would not kill its own civilians on purpose in “a war of survival.”
“The Ukrainian military is desperately trying to reinforce units in the area,” said Justin Bronk. He is a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London. Bronk added that the rail station was important for the movement of troops and people.
In his nightly television speech, Zelenskyy said officials had already discovered horrors worse than those found in Bucha in Borodyanka, a neighborhood northwest of Kyiv.
“There, on every street, is what the world saw in Bucha and other towns in the Kyiv region....The same cruelty. The same terrible crimes,” Zelenskyy said.
NATO nations agreed to increase arms supplies when Ukraine’s foreign minister appealed for more weapons after reports that Russian forces had carried out atrocities.
The United Nations estimates that more than 4.3 million people have fled Ukraine since the war began and more than 12 million people are trapped in areas under attack.
I’m Caty Weaver.
The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English.
Words in This Story
dozen –n. a group of twelve people or things
courage –n. the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous
cynical –adj. believing that people are generally selfish and dishonest
infrastructure –n. the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) that are needed for a country, region, or organization to function properly
evacuation -n. to remove (someone) from a dangerous place
desperate –adj. very sad and upset because of having little or no hope
cruel -adj. a desire to cause others to suffer
atrocity -n. a very cruel or terrible act or action
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