Lviv/Borodyanka – At least 39 people were killed and 87 wounded on Friday when two rockets hit a railway station in eastern Ukraine packed with evacuees, Ukrainian authorities said, as the region braced for a major Russian offensive.
Reuters could not immediately verify the information coming from the city of Kramatorsk.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region, said thousands of civilians had been at the station at the time the rockets struck, in what he described as a deliberate attack. Many of the wounded were in serious condition, he said.
“They wanted to sow panic and fear, they wanted to take as many civilians as possible,” he said. Kyrylenko published a photograph online showing several bodies on the ground beside piles of suitcases and other luggage. Reuters could not immediately verify the photo.
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.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said no Ukrainian troops were at the station.
“Russian forces (fired) on an ordinary train station, on ordinary people, there were no soldiers there,” he told Finland’s parliament in a video address.
Moscow has denied targeting civilians since invading Ukraine on February 24 in what it calls a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” its neighbour.
Ukraine and Western supporters call that a pretext for an unprovoked invasion.
Ukrainian officials say Russia is regrouping forces after withdrawing from the capital Kyiv’s outskirts for a new thrust to try to gain full control of the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk partly held by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.
Ukraine’s military general staff said on Friday that Russian forces were focused on capturing the besieged southeastern port of Mariupol, fighting near the eastern city of Izyum and breakthroughs by Ukrainian forces near Donetsk.