(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.”