Monday, August 8, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Dozens killed in strike on train station in Ukraine

A missile struck outside an eastern Ukrainian train station where thousands of civilians were waiting to evacuate. Dozens were killed and wounded. The civilian carnage in Ukraine is causing the outrage against Russia to intensify.

(CN) — At least 50 people, including five children, were killed and dozens wounded on Friday in a missile strike outside a train station where thousands of people were waiting to evacuate from a city in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine blamed Russia for the attack on the Kramatorsk station and called it the latest war crime against civilians. This was the worst mass civilian killing so far documented in the war, though there have likely been other mass killings, including the bombing of a drama theater in the besieged and devastated southeastern port city of Mariupol.

“This is an evil that has no limits,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on social media. “If it is not punished, it will never stop.”

Calling Russian troops “non humans,” he accused them of “cynically destroying the civilian population” because they lack “the strength and courage to fight us on the battlefield.”

But it was not immediately clear what happened at the train station and Russia may not have launched the high-precision rocket. The missile also may have been intercepted or even malfunctioned. There also were reports that two missiles were involved.

Russia’s ministry of defense said the type of missile that fell outside the train station, a Tochka-U, is used by Ukrainian forces and was removed from Russia’s arsenal.

In a statement, the Russian defense ministry claimed Ukraine wanted to strike the station in Kramatorsk to disrupt the mass exit of residents to keep them in the city and use them as a “human shield” to defend its troops’ positions.

However, some Western and Ukrainian sources said Russia’s claims were false, pointing to apparent video showing Russian-operated Tochka-U mobile rocket launchers on the move during the war, according to Defense Blog, a U.S.-based defense publication.

On the side of a missile fragment outside the station, the words “For the children” were written in Russian.

Videos from the train station showed horrific scenes of dead women, children and men on the pavement outside the station. Reportedly, about 4,000 people were at the station in the hope of boarding trains to western Ukraine.

Russia invariably has denied allegations of war crimes, though there is mounting evidence that its troops have killed civilians, raped women and children, tortured people, looted homes, businesses and schools and committed other war crimes.

Such alleged atrocities are coming to light in towns and villages near Kyiv with the withdrawal of Russian forces since the end of March. Western military intelligence agencies say Russian troops are no longer in areas around Kyiv but regrouping to launch new attacks on eastern Ukraine.

On Friday, president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen arrived in Kyiv and visited the city of Bucha, where the bodies of civilians allegedly shot by Russian troops were found strewn on streets, sparking international outrage.

“It was important to start my visit in Bucha,” von der Leyen said, “because in Bucha our humanity was shattered.”

“My message to Ukrainian people: Those responsible for the atrocities will be brought to justice,” she said. “Your fight is our fight. I’m in Kyiv today to tell you that Europe is on your side.”

Amnesty International on Thursday released testimony its investigators gathered from civilians who lived through the horrors in Bucha and other towns.

“Testimonies show that unarmed civilians in Ukraine are being killed in their homes and streets in acts of unspeakable cruelty and shocking brutality,” said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty’s secretary general. “The intentional killing of civilians is a human rights violation and a war crime. These deaths must be thoroughly investigated, and those responsible must be prosecuted, including up the chain of command.”

ADVERTISEMENT

On Friday, Russia’s justice ministry announced it was shutting down Amnesty and Human Rights Watch “due to violations” of Russian law, per news reports.

Ukrainian troops, too, have been accused of committing war crimes and shelling civilians in Russian-held areas of eastern Ukraine. Russia claims to have gathered hundreds of testimonies about war crimes, including civilian killings, rape and torture, committed by Ukrainian troops in Mariupol and elsewhere.

Kramatorsk is near the front line of the war in eastern Ukraine where fighting is intensifying as Russia pushes to seize that part of the country known as Donbas, home to many ethnic Russians.

For days, civilians have been attempting to leave Kramatorsk, but seating on trains has been limited and evacuation efforts were temporarily ceased due to recent Russian strikes on rail lines.

As Russia intensifies the battle for eastern Ukraine, its army has attacked infrastructure, such as rail lines and fuel depots, that Ukraine needs to keep its troops stocked.

The increasing savagery of the war and mounting civilian deaths are fueling international outrage against Russia and make it more difficult for the two sides to sit down and discuss a peace deal.

The war in Ukraine has been raging for 44 days since Russian President Vladimir Putin shocked the world by ordering an invasion on Feb. 24.

The West is stepping up its arms shipments to Ukraine to help it fight Russia, though Ukraine is pleading for much more support.

In recent days, the Czech Republic sent five Soviet-era tanks and five infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine, the United Kingdom announced a large ship of anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles and Slovakia gave Kyiv its Soviet-era S-300 air defense system.

European capitals are announcing major boosts in military spending and plans to wean themselves off Russian oil and natural gas.

But there are signs of unease in Europe as the war in Ukraine escalates and the continent goes on the war footing.

Robert Fico, a former prime minister of Slovakia, called it “madness” for his nation to replace its S-300 air defense system with a Patriot system provided by the United States.

“We would be more and more involved in the war in Ukraine, in the name of American interests,” he said, according to news reports.

Pope Francis has also spoken out against increasing military spending. European NATO nations are pledging to raise their military spending to 2% of their gross domestic product, a longstanding demand made by the U.S.

“I was ashamed when I read that a group of states have pledged to spend two percent of their GDP to buy weapons, as a response to what is happening,” Francis said in late March. “Madness!”

He added: “The basic problem is the same: we continue to govern the world as a ‘chess board’ where the powerful study moves to extend their dominance to the detriment of others.”

The pope is considering to make a trip to Kyiv to foster peace. He has condemned Putin’s invasion and the Bucha massacres, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, told reporters that the Holy See must take into consideration the “delicate” relationship with the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church and its head, Patriarch Kirill.

Kirill has talked about the Ukraine invasion as a fight against liberal Western values, which he associated in a sermon in March with gay pride parades, according to a report from the Moscow Times. Kirill reportedly backs Putin’s regime and he’s talked about Ukrainians and Russians as being “one people.”

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.

Loading
Loading...