zelenskyy-calls-for-‘firm-global-response’-to-train-station-bombing

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for a “firm global response” Friday after a missile strike killed 52 people at a train station in eastern Ukraine where civilians had gathered to flee a feared Russian offensive.

“This is another Russian war crime for which everyone involved will be held accountable,” Zelenskyy said in a video message, referring to Friday’s missile strike, whose victims included five children.

Kramatorsk attack

“World powers have already condemned Russia’s attack on Kramatorsk. We expect a firm global response to this war crime,” he continued.

World leaders condemned the attack in the Donetsk capital, with US President Joe Biden accusing Russia of being behind a “horrific atrocity” that the French condemned as a “crime against humanity.”

At least 52 people including five children were killed, the regional government said, while Zelenskyy reported 300 wounded, saying the strike showed “evil with no limits”.

Zelenskyy said the bombing had been reported in Russia before the missiles had even landed and called for more weaponry to counter Moscow’s aggression.

“I am sure that the victory of Ukraine is just a matter of time, and I will do everything to reduce this time,” he added.

AFP journalists saw the bodies of at least 30 people under plastic sheets next to the station.

Body parts, packed bags and stuffed animals were flung across the floor.

On the station forecourt, the remains of a missile were still visible.

It was tagged with white paint with the words “for our children” in Russian, an expression frequently used by pro-Russian separatists in reference to their losses since the start of the first Donbas war in 2014.

“I was in the station. I heard, like, a double explosion. I rushed to the wall for protection,” said Natalia, searching for her passport among the abandoned belongings.

Another woman in a state of shock told AFP: “I saw people covered in blood entering the station and bodies everywhere on the ground.”

Russia denied being behind the missile strike, which came with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Kyiv for talks with Zelenskyy and to visit the scene of civilian killings in the town of Bucha.

Russia faces “decay” because of ever tougher sanctions and Ukraine had a “European future”, Von der Leyen said at a news conference with Zelenskyy.

Six weeks into President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, Moscow has shifted its focus to eastern and southern Ukraine after stiff resistance ended plans to swiftly capture the capital Kyiv.

‘All this horror’

Russian troops appear set on creating a long-sought land link between occupied Crimea and the Moscow-backed separatist statelets of Donetsk and Lugansk in the Donbas region, where civilians have been urged to flee heavy shelling that has laid waste to towns and complicated evacuation efforts.

“There is no secret — the battle for Donbas will be decisive. What we have already experienced — all this horror — it can multiply,” warned Lugansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday.

In the city of Lozova west of Kramatorsk, more than 15,000 people have fled, Oleg Sinegubov, head of the Kharkiv regional military administration, said on Telegram.

“There are still about 50 thousand [people]. A large number of people will leave. Departures are organized both by rail and own vehicles,” he said, adding that fighting was taking place nearby.

In the south, the Black Sea port city of Odessa girded for rocket attacks, imposing a weekend curfew.

Residents and Ukrainian officials returning after a Russian withdrawal from an area near Kyiv, meanwhile, were taking stock of the scale of the devastation.

Bucha, where authorities say hundreds were killed — some with their hands bound — has become a byword for the brutality allegedly inflicted under Russian occupation.

But Zelenskyy warned worse was being uncovered.

“They have started sorting through the ruins in Borodianka,” northwest of Kyiv, he said in his nightly address. “It is much more horrific there. There are even more victims of Russian occupiers.”

Conflict in the area has wrought massive destruction and bodies are only now being retrieved, with 27 recovered from two destroyed buildings, according to Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova.

Fresh allegations also emerged from Obukhovychi, northwest of Kyiv, where villagers told AFP they were used as human shields.

Regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said the station was hit by a Tochka U short-range ballistic missile containing cluster munitions, which explode in mid-air, spraying lethal bomblets over a wider area.

Cluster munitions are banned under a 2008 convention. Russia has not signed it but has previously denied using such armaments in Ukraine.

The Russian defence ministry was quoted by RIA news agency as saying the missiles said to have struck the station were used only by Ukraine’s military and that Russia’s armed forces had no targets assigned in Kramatorsk on Friday.

Russian television showed graphics of the presumed trajectory of the missile, suggesting it came from a zone controlled by the Ukrainian army. Commentators on the Russian First channel TV said this was a “false flag” operation by Kyiv.

Bloggers however contradict Russia’s thesis that the country no longer has Tochka U missiles and posted footage of what apparently is a Russian convoy of such weaponry.

Pro-Russian journalists filmed a Tochka missile launch today from near Donetsk that was apparently heading towards Kramatorsk. Like with MH-17, the most damning evidence of this war crime comes from pro-Russian sources before they knew what they filmed. https://t.co/VVgPNwIYZI

— Nathan Ruser (@Nrg8000) April 8, 2022

‘Help us now’

Moscow has denied targeting civilians, but growing evidence of atrocities has galvanised Ukraine’s allies in the EU, which has approved an embargo on Russian coal and the closure of its ports to Russian vessels.

The bloc has frozen €30 billion in assets from blacklisted Russian and Belarusian individuals and companies, it said Friday.

It also blacklisted Putin’s two adult daughters and more than 200 others as part of its latest sanctions package, according to an official list published late Friday.

The United States and Britain had already sanctioned the Russian leader’s daughters.

Katerina and Maria

US is targeting Putin’s daughters Katerina and Maria

The United States’ latest round of sanctions on Russia includes two new targets: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters, Katerina and Maria, who US officials believe are hiding Putin’s wealth.

En route to Kyiv, Borrell told journalists the EU would supply 7.5 million euros to train Ukrainian prosecutors to investigate war crimes, which Russia is accused of committing.

At the United Nations General Assembly, 93 nations voted Thursday to suspend Russia from the body’s human rights council, prompting accusations from Moscow that the move was “illegal and politically motivated.”

“Russia’s lies are no match for the undeniable evidence of what is happening in Ukraine,” Biden said, calling the invasion “an outrage to our common humanity”.

Ukraine has welcomed new pressure on Moscow, but it continues to push for harsher sanctions and more heavy weaponry.

“Either you help us now — and I’m speaking about days, not weeks — or your help will come too late and many people will die, many civilians will lose their homes, many villages will be destroyed,” foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said after meeting NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.

Britain said Friday it was sending Ukraine more “high-grade military equipment” including Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles and 800 anti-tank missiles, while Slovakia said it had given Ukraine an S-300 air defence system.

(Edited by Georgi Gotev)

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