KYIV, Ukraine — A rocket hit a crowded train station in eastern Ukraine that was an evacuation point for civilians, killing dozens, Ukrainian authorities said Friday after warning that even worse evidence of war crimes was expected in previously occupied parts of the country. Russian troops.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said that thousands of people were at the station when the missile hit. The Russian Defense Ministry denied targeting the station in Kramatorsk, a city in the east of the Donetsk region, but Zelenskiy blamed Russia for the bodies lying in an open storage area.
“The inhuman Russians do not change their methods. Lacking the strength and courage to resist us on the battlefield, they are cynically destroying the civilian population,” the president said on social networks. This is evil without borders. And if he is not punished, he will never stop.
The governor of the Donetsk region, Pavel Kirilenko, later added that 39 people were killed and 87 were injured. The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office said that about 4,000 civilians were in and around the station, mostly women and children, who responded to calls to leave the area before Russian troops arrived.
“People just wanted to leave to be evacuated,” prosecutor general Irina Venediktova lamented during a visit to Bucha, a city north of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, where journalists and returning Ukrainians found dozens of bodies in the streets and in mass graves after Russian troops withdrew. troops.
Ms. Venediktova spoke as workers removed corpses from a mass grave near the church in the pouring rain. Black body bags lay in rows in the dirt. According to her, none of the dead was Russian. Most of them were shot. The Attorney General’s Office is investigating these deaths as possible war crimes.
After failing to take the Ukrainian capital and withdrawing from northern Ukraine, Russia has focused its efforts on 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 certain areas. The station is in government-controlled territory.
Ukrainian officials this week warned residents to leave for safer parts of the country as soon as possible, and announced that they and Russia had agreed to set up several evacuation routes in the east.
In his late-night video message, Zelensky predicted even more horrific discoveries would be made in northern towns and villages as the Russians withdrew. He said that worse than Bucha’s had already happened in Borodyanka, another municipality outside the capital.
“And what will happen when the world learns the whole truth about what the Russian troops did in Mariupol?” Zelenskiy asked on Thursday evening, referring to the besieged southern port that has seen some of the worst suffering since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“There, on every street, is what the world saw in Bucha and other cities of the Kiev region after the withdrawal of Russian troops. The same cruelty. The same heinous crimes.
Angered by reports of atrocities committed by Russian forces around the capital, NATO nations agreed to increase their arms shipments after Ukraine’s foreign minister requested weapons from the Alliance and other sympathetic nations to help deal with an expected offensive in the east.
Horror in Bucha
The mayor of Bucha, Anatoly Fedoruk, said that investigators had discovered at least three places of mass executions of civilians during the Russian occupation. According to him, most of the victims died from gunfights, not from shelling, and some corpses with their hands tied were “thrown like firewood” into mass graves, including one in a children’s camp.
Mr Fedoruk added that 320 civilians were confirmed dead on Wednesday, but he expected more as bodies were found in a city of 50,000 people. According to him, only 3,700 people remained.
Ukrainian leaders and several Western leaders blamed troops from Moscow for the massacres. The weekly Der Spiegel reported that the German foreign intelligence service had intercepted radio conversations between Russian soldiers discussing the killing of civilians. Russia falsely claimed that Bucha’s scenes were staged.
In a rare acknowledgment of the cost of the war for Russia, a Kremlin spokesman said on Thursday that the country had suffered heavy troop losses during the six-week military operation in Ukraine.
“Yes, we have significant losses in the troops, and for us this is a huge tragedy,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the British Sky TV channel.
Peskov also hinted that hostilities could be stopped “for the foreseeable future,” telling Sky that Russian forces are “doing their best to end this operation.”
Asked about his comments on Friday, Peskov said his reference to troop losses was based on the most recent figures from the Russian Defense Ministry. On March 25, the ministry reported that a total of 1,351 Russian servicemen had died in Ukraine.
“That’s a significant number,” Mr. Peskov said during his daily conference call with reporters.
In anticipation of the intensification of attacks by Russian troops, hundreds of Ukrainians fled from villages in the Mykolaiv and Kherson regions, which were either attacked or occupied.
The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said more than 4.3 million people, half of them children, have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion on February 24, sparking Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II. .
The International Organization for Migration estimates that more than 12 million people are stranded in the affected areas of Ukraine.
The UN humanitarian chief told The Associated Press on Thursday that he was “not optimistic” about securing a ceasefire after meeting with officials in Kyiv and Moscow this week, given the lack of trust between the parties. He spoke hours after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Ukraine of abandoning its proposals regarding Crimea and Ukraine’s military status.
Two senior European Union officials and the Slovak prime minister visited Kyiv on Friday seeking to bolster EU support for Ukraine. Prime Minister Eduard Heger said he, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell have trade and humanitarian aid proposals for Zelenskiy and his government.
Part of that, according to Heger, is “providing opportunities to move grain, including wheat.” Ukraine is a major global supplier of wheat, and Russia’s war against Ukraine is creating shortages, especially in the Middle East.
Western countries have tightened sanctions, and the world’s major G7 powers have warned they will keep adding measures until Russian troops leave Ukraine.
The US Congress on Thursday voted to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and ban imports of its oil, while the EU approved other new measures, including an embargo on coal imports. Meanwhile, the UN General Assembly voted to remove Russia from the world’s highest human rights body.