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Ukraine: 52 people die in rocket strike on Kramatorsk

April 8, 2022

Fifty two have been killed in a rocket attack on a train station crowded with people fleeing the eastern Ukrainian city. A dozen people died at the scene while an additional 40 later succumbed to their wounds.

A blood splattered sidewalk outside the Kramatorsk rail station
The mayor of Kramatorsk said 50 were killed including five children in a missile attack on a rail station as civilians were hoping to escapeImage: Seth Sidney Berry/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa/picture alliance

The death toll following a missile attack on a train station filled with civilians seeking to evacuate has risen to 52, Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said Friday.

Kyrylenko said 12 people were killed instantly at the scene while an additional 40 people later died of injuries in the hospital.

Among the dead were five children.

Strikes on station 'a deliberate attack'

Civilians had gathered in the hopes of being moved to safer parts of the country when the station came under attack. Photographs and videos taken just after the blast showed the dead on the ground, many with limbs missing and in one case, a head severed.

The remnants of the Russian rocket revealed "for the children" had been written on the side.

Map shows Ukraine, with Kramatorsk east of Kyiv, north of Donetsk, west of Luhansk

What do we know about the attack?

In a Facebook post, Zelenskyy said a Russian Tochka-U missile struck the Kramatorsk train station. 

Zelenskyy wrote, "Lacking the strength and courage to stand up to us on the battlefield, [the Russians] are cynically destroying the civilian population."

He added, "If it is not punished, it will never stop."

After the attack, Kramatorsk's mayor, Oleksandr Honcharenko, said authorities continued to work on resuming the evacuation of residents by buses and cars. During an online briefing, Honcharenko called for assistance with the effort.

"Today we are starting an emergency evacuation of people with all public transport, all private transport. We are looking for drivers. Approximate 30-40 drivers are needed as of today," he said.

Honcharenko added about 4,000 people were at the station when the attack occurred. With dozens of surgeons working to treat the injured, the hospital nearby was struggling to cope.

Honcharenko said, "There are many people in a serious condition, without arms or legs."

Why is the Donbas so important to Putin?

Ukraine's prosecutor-general said most of those gathered were women and children.

What has the reaction been to the attack?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia is an "evil that has no limits" in the aftermath of the attack.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in London with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday, called the attack "atrocious," also referring to other "shocking" images and reports out of Bucha, Mariupol and other places in Ukraine in recent weeks. Johnson, meanwhile, described the Kramatosk attack as "uncoscionable."

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the attack amounted to a war crime, while Ursula von der Leyen called it "atrocious" during her visit to Kyiv on Friday.

"There are almost no words for it,'' von der Leyen said, adding, "The cynical behavior has almost no benchmark anymore."

US President Joe Biden spoke of a "horrific atrocity" while the French government called it a "crime against humanity." 

The US said it believes Russia used a short-range ballistic missile in its strike on the railway station in Kramatorsk.

Eastern Ukraine braces for more fighting

Russia has denied responsibility for the attack. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov claimed Russia does not use the type of missile identified in the attack.

Military experts almost immediately dismissed that claim and pointed to the use of Tochka-U missiles already in the six week-old war following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

ar/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)