(Kramatorsk) At least 50 people, including five children, were killed in a missile strike Friday on a train station in Donbass where civilians were thronging to flee eastern Ukraine targeted by Russian forces, an “inhumane” massacre denounced by President Volodymyr Zelensky, but for which Moscow denies any responsibility.
What you need to know
- At least 50 people, including five children, were killed in the Kramatorsk railway station missile attack on Friday;
- Volodymyr Zelensky calls for more weapons and sanctions against Russia;
- Residents of Boutcha return after the departure of the “bastards”;
- The region of Sumy “liberated” from the Russian army;
- More than 4.38 million refugees have fled the country;
- EU countries have already frozen at least €29.5 billion in Russian and Belarusian assets;
- Putin targets victory in Donbass for May 9, Macron says;
- Global food prices hit their “highest levels on record” in March.
The bloody strike comes as international outrage was already strong following images of atrocities the Russian army has been accused of in localities from which it has withdrawn around the capital Kyiv, where senior European officials were expected to show their support for Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion.
Kramatorsk station, the “capital” of Donbass under Ukrainian control, was the target of the attack which left 50 dead, including five children, a new report from the security services.
AFP journalists saw at least 30 bodies in body bags or under tarpaulins in front of the station, used for the evacuation of populations from the region.
The boss of the Ukrainian railway company Ukrzaliznytsia, Oleksandre Kamychine, had mentioned more than 100 wounded, denouncing a “deliberate strike”.
“I’m looking for my husband, he was there, I can’t reach him,” a woman, trembling and sobbing, told AFP, hesitating to approach the bodies, her phone glued to her ear.
Another woman, also traumatized, was looking for her passport in the abandoned cases. “I was in the station, I heard like a double explosion, I rushed against the wall to protect myself. I then saw people bleeding into the station, bodies all over the ground, I don’t know if they were injured or dead. The soldiers rushed to tell us to evacuate the station, I left everything here”.
Abandoned suitcases, stuffed animals and food littered the platforms and the surroundings of the station with the red and white pediment, from which thousands of people have been evacuated in recent days.
The sidewalks were streaked with blood and on the forecourt in front of the station, the remains of a missile were still visible, on which one could read in Russian “For our children”.
About an hour before the strike, there were already dozens of civilians – elderly people, women and children – queuing outside the red-and-white-fronted station, waiting to catch the train.
President Zelensky denounced “unlimited evil” unleashed by Russia and “inhuman” methods.
“Without the strength and courage to face us on the battlefield, they cynically annihilate the civilian population. It is an evil that has no limit. And if he is not punished, he will never stop,” he wrote on Telegram.
The head of EU diplomacy Josep Borrell, on his way to Kyiv, “strongly condemned” a “blind attack”. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who accompanies him, denounced a “despicable attack”.
Moscow immediately denied being responsible, claiming not to have the type of missile that would have been used and denouncing a Ukrainian “provocation”.
The Russian Ministry of Defense then accused “the Kyiv regime” of having “orchestrated” the strike to “prevent the departure of the population of the city in order to be able to use it as a human shield”.
Moscow regularly denounces Ukrainian “provocations” to defend itself from accusations of abuse and war crimes, as recently concerning Boutcha, north-west of Kyiv, bombarded then occupied by Russian soldiers and where dozens of corpses dressed in civilian clothes, some with their hands tied behind their backs were discovered in early April.
The Russian Ministry of Defense had indicated earlier Friday that the Russian army had destroyed with high precision missiles “arms and military equipment in the stations of Pokrovsk, Sloviansk and Barvinkove”, localities all located not far from Kramatorsk.
After withdrawing its troops from the Kyiv region and northern Ukraine, Russia has made the conquest of Donbass, part of which has been controlled since 2014 by pro-Russian separatists, its priority objective. It multiplies its attacks in the South and the East, the Ukrainian authorities trying hard to evacuate the civilians.
Evacuations by train, which had been interrupted due to the destruction of part of the railway, had resumed overnight from Thursday to Friday, according to the governor of the Luhansk region, Serguiï Gaïdaï, who had been encouraging for several days the inhabitants to leave so as not to “sentence themselves to death”.
Russia and Ukraine still “agree” to meet in Turkey
Russia and Ukraine are still “agreeing” to meet for talks in Turkey despite recent abuses on the ground, a senior Turkish official said on Friday.
“Russia and Ukraine agree to hold talks in Turkey, but they remain far from agreeing on a common text,” the high-level official told reporters, declining to be named.
The question of the status of Crimea and Donbass remains difficult to decide, confirmed this same source, which did not advance a date concerning a possible new meeting on Turkish soil between the two parties.
The diplomatic aspect of the crisis between Russia and Ukraine shows no signs of progress.
Russia said on Thursday that Ukraine had backtracked on some of the proposals it made during talks in late March in Istanbul that Russia said it welcomed.
Turkey has twice hosted direct negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow, on March 10 at ministerial level in Antalya (south), and on March 29 in Istanbul, but “the positive atmosphere that emanated from them was unfortunately overshadowed” by the events of Boutcha and Irpin, said Thursday the head of Turkish diplomacy Mevlüt Cavusoglu.
On Friday, the United Kingdom announced that it was sanctioning the two daughters of President Vladimir Putin and that of the head of diplomacy Sergei Lavrov, saying that it wanted to attack the “lavish lifestyle of the inner circle of the Kremlin”.
And the European Union also adopted a new set of punitive measures on Thursday evening, including an embargo on Russian coal. This is the very first time that the Europeans have hit the Russian energy sector, on which they are very dependent.
The EU, which has indicated that it has already frozen a total of 29.5 billion euros in Russian assets, imports 45% of its coal from Russia for a value of four billion euros per year. The embargo will come into force at the beginning of August.
Japan has also announced that it will ban the import of Russian coal.
Brussels is also planning new sanctions against Russian banks as well as the closure of European ports to Russian ships. At the same time, the EU is ready to release an additional €500 million to fund arms for Ukraine.
Kyiv is calling for the “immediate” supply of weapons, before it is too late to face a new Russian offensive in the East.
On Thursday, NATO promised, through the voice of its Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, “significant support”.
Slovakia, a member of the Alliance, announced on Friday that it had “donated” Soviet-designed S-300 air defense systems to Ukraine.
Many observers believe that Vladimir Putin wants at all costs a capture of Donbass before the military parade on May 9 marking the end of the Second World War, the most important celebration in Russia.
The indirect repercussions of the conflict are also still being felt around the world.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said on Friday that world food prices reached their “highest levels on record” in March, as the war in Ukraine upset grain and oil markets. plants.
An announcement that raises fears of a global food crisis and the possible socio-political unrest that could result in some countries.