Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – A rocket struck a railway station where thousands of people flocked to flee eastern Ukraineas a result of which 50 people died on Friday, Ukrainian authorities said, warning that they expect to find more evidence of war crimes in areas left by Russian troops.
The photos from the scene show bodies covered with tarpaulin on the ground and the remains of a rocket with the inscription “For children” in Russian. About 4,000 civilians were at and around the station, the Prosecutor General’s Office said, adding that most of them were women and children who listened to calls to leave the area before Russia launched a full-scale offensive in the east.
Russia’s Defense Ministry has denied an attack on a station in Kramatorsk, a city in the disputed Donbass region, but President Vladimir Zelensky and other Ukrainian leaders have accused the Russian military of deliberately attacking a place where only civilians were gathering.
“Inhuman Russians do not change their methods. Lacking the strength and courage to stand up to us on the battlefield, they are cynically destroying civilians, ”the president said on social media. “This is evil without borders. And if you don’t punish, you will never stop. “
UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has condemned the attack, saying “striking civilians and critical infrastructure is a war crime”.
“These were precision missiles aimed at people trying to find humanitarian asylum,” Wallace said.
The governor of the Donetsk region in the Donbass Pavlo Kirilenko said that 50 people were killed, including five children, many dozens were injured.
“People just wanted to evacuate,” said Prosecutor General Irina Venediktov during her visit to Bucha.a city north of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, where journalists and returning Ukrainians found many bodies in the streets and in mass graves after the withdrawal of Russian troops.
Benedict said when workers in the rain pulled corpses out of the mass grave near the church. Black bags with bodies were lined up in rows in the mud. According to her, none of the victims was Russian. Most of them were shot. The Attorney General’s Office is investigating the deaths and other mass casualties of civilians as possible war crimes.
After Russia failed to capture the Ukrainian capital and left northern Ukraine, Russia shifted its focus to the Donbass, a predominantly Russian-speaking industrial region in eastern Ukraine where Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years and controlling some areas. The station is in government-controlled territory.
This week, Ukrainian officials warned residents to leave for safer parts of the country as soon as possible and said they and Russia had agreed to create several evacuation routes in the east.
One analyst said that only Russia would have reason to attack civilian rail infrastructure in the Donbas, and that Ukraine would not deliberately kill its civilians in a “survival war.”
“The Ukrainian military is desperately trying to strengthen units in the area … and the railway stations in the area under Ukrainian rule are crucial for the movement of equipment and people,” said Justin Bronck, a researcher at the Royal United Institute. services in London.
Elsewhere in Donbass, Luhansk Governor Sergei Gaidai said Russia was concentrating equipment and troops and increasing shelling and bombing to help advance them.
“We are feeling the end of preparations for this massive breakthrough, for the great battle that will take place around us, in Luhansk and Donetsk regions,” he said in a televised address.
In his night video, Zelensky said that in Borodyanka, another town outside the capital, there were already horrors worse than in Bucha.
“And what will happen if the world learns the whole truth about what Russian troops were doing in Mariupol?” Zelensky made this statement late on Thursday, referring to the besieged southern port which brought some of the greatest suffering during the Russian invasion. “There, on every street, is what the world has seen in Bucha and other cities of the Kiev region …. The same cruelty. The same terrible crimes. “
The Prosecutor General also expressed concern over the death toll in Borodyanka, where the process of removing bodies from shelling and demolished buildings has just begun. Twenty-six bodies were found in the ruins of only two buildings on Thursday, Venediktov said.
“We don’t know what’s under these houses,” she said, believing it could take two weeks.
Promised by reports that Russian troops have committed atrocities in areas around the capital, NATO countries agreed to increase arms supplies after Ukraine’s foreign minister requested weapons from the alliance and other sympathetic countries to help counter the expected offensive in the east.
Ukrainian and several Western leaders have blamed Moscow’s troops for the Moscow killings. The weekly Der Spiegel reported that German foreign intelligence intercepted radio reports among Russian soldiers discussing the killings of civilians. Russia has falsely stated that the scenes in Bucha have been staged.
In a rare acknowledgment that the war is costing Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Britain’s Sky News on Thursday that the country had suffered significant military casualties, calling it a “tragedy”.
On Friday, he told reporters that his reference to military casualties was based on the latest figures from Russia’s Defense Ministry, which said on March 25 that 1,351 Russian servicemen had died in Ukraine. NATO has estimated Russia’s losses several times higher.
Hundreds of Ukrainians fled the villages of Mykolaiv and Kherson oblasts, which were either attacked or occupied, in anticipation of intensified attacks by Russian troops.
Marina Morozova and her husband fled Kherson, the first major city to fall into Russian hands.
“A big fight awaits them. We saw shells that did not explode. It was horrible, ”she said.
Morozova, 69, said only Russian television and radio were available. The Russians were distributing humanitarian aid, she said, and filming the distribution.
The United Nations estimates that more than 4.3 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the war and that more than 12 million people are in the attack zones.
On Thursday, a day after Russian troops began shelling their village in the south of the Nikolaev region, 52-year-old Sergei Dubayenko drove north in his little blue Zhiguli with his wife and mother-in-law to Bashtanka, where they found refuge in a church.
“In Pavel Marianovka, houses and everything started to be destroyed,” he said. “Then tanks appeared from the forest. We thought there would be shelling again in the morning, so I decided to leave. “
The two highest European Union officials and the Slovak prime minister visited Kyiv on Friday to bolster EU support for Ukraine. Prime Minister Eduard Heger said he, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borel had brought Zelensky and his government proposals for trade and humanitarian aid.
Heger also announced that his country had handed over its Soviet-era S-300 air defense system to Ukraine. Later, the Minister of Defense of Slovakia Jaroslav Nad said that the United States will deploy in Slovakia Patriot air defense system for as long as necessary, which is a necessary condition for Ukraine to obtain a long-range anti-aircraft missile system S-300.
Zelensky mentioned the S-300 by name when he spoke to US lawmakers in a video in March, calling for air defense systems that would allow Ukraine to “close the skies” for Russian warplanes and missiles.
Western countries have tightened sanctions against Russia after reports of atrocities near Kiev. A day after the United States imposed sanctions on President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters, the European Union and Britain followed on Friday.
Anna reported from the Ukrainian Bucha. Andrea Rosa of Chernihiv, Ukraine, and Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.
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