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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he wants a tough global response after a missile struck a train station crowded with civilians trying to escape an impending Russian offensive, killing at least 52 people.

Zelenskyy’s voice rose in anger during his late-night speech on Friday night, when he said the strike at Kramatorsk train station in eastern Ukraine was another war crime that should be dealt with. reviewed by an international tribunal. Five children were among the dead and dozens of people were seriously injured, Ukrainian officials said.

“All global efforts will be directed to establish at every minute who did what, who gave what orders, where the missile came from, who carried it, who gave the order and how this strike was agreed” , said the president.

Russia denied responsibility for the strike and accused the Ukrainian military of firing the missile as a false flag operation so that Moscow would be blamed for the civilian killings. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman detailed the missile’s trajectory and Ukrainian troop positions to bolster the argument.

Ukraine’s state-owned railway company said in a statement that residents of the disputed Donbass region, where Russia has refocused its forces after failing to take control of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, may flee via other stations on Saturday.

“The railways are not stopping the task of getting everyone to safety,” said the statement on the Telegram messaging app.

Photos taken after Friday’s missile strike showed corpses covered in tarpaulins and the remains of a rocket painted with the words “For children” in Russian. The wording seemed to suggest the missile was sent to avenge the loss or subjugation of children, though its exact meaning remained unclear.

The attack came as workers elsewhere in the country dug up at least 67 bodies from a mass grave near a church in Bucha, a town near kyiv where graphic evidence of dozens of murders emerged after the withdrawal of Russian forces. Russia falsely claimed that Bucha’s scenes were staged.

Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said investigators had uncovered at least three sites of mass shootings of civilians and continued to find bodies in courtyards, parks and city squares – 90% of which were victims who had been shot.

After failing to occupy kyiv in the face of fierce resistance, Russian forces have set their sights on Donbass, the predominantly Russian-speaking industrial region where Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years and control part of the region.

Although Kramatorsk station is in Ukrainian government-controlled territory in the Donbass, the separatists, who work closely with Russian troops, have blamed Ukraine for the attack.

Western experts, however, rejected Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov’s claim that Russian forces “do not use” Tochka-U missiles, the type that hit the station. A Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence, said Russian forces used the missile – and given the location and impact of the strike, it was likely of Russia.

Justin Bronk, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute in London, pointed to other occasions when Russian authorities tried to deflect blame by saying their forces were no longer using an older weapon “to cover their tracks and try to create doubt.” He suggested that Russia specifically chose the Tochka-U because Ukraine possesses them as well.

Ukrainian authorities and Western officials have repeatedly accused Russian forces of committing atrocities in the war that began with Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. A total of 176 children have been killed in Ukraine since the start of the war, while 324 others have been injured, the country’s attorney general’s office said on Saturday.

Ukrainian authorities have warned they expect to find evidence of further killings once they reach the southern port city of Mariupol, which is also in Donbass and has been subjected to a month-long Russian blockade.

Some of the most grisly evidence to date has been found in Bucha and other towns around kyiv, from where Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops have withdrawn in recent days. An international organization set up to identify the dead and missing from the 1990s conflicts in the Balkans is sending a team of forensic experts to Ukraine to help put names to bodies that might otherwise remain unnamed in the fog of war .

In an interview from US television channel CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired on Friday, Zelenskyy cited communications intercepted by Ukraine’s security service as evidence of Russian war crimes.

“There are (Russian) soldiers talking with their parents about what they stole and who they kidnapped. There are records of (Russian) POWs who admitted to killing people,” he said. “There are pilots in prison who had maps with civilian targets to bomb. Investigations are also being conducted based on the remains of the dead.

Zelenskyy’s comments echoed reports by German news magazine Der Spiegel that the German foreign intelligence agency had intercepted Russian military radio traffic in which soldiers may have discussed the killings of civilians in Bucha. The weekly also reported that the tapes indicated the Russian mercenary Wagner Group was involved in atrocities there.

German government officials have neither confirmed nor denied the report, but two former German ministers filed a war crimes complaint on Thursday. Russia has denied that its military was involved in war crimes.

A senior US defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal military assessments said on Friday the Pentagon estimates Russia has lost between 15% and 20% of its overall combat power since the start. of the war. As some combat units pull back for resupply in Russia, Moscow has added thousands of troops around Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, in the east of the country, the official said.

Ukrainian officials have pleaded almost daily with Western powers to send in more weapons and punish Russia further with sanctions, including the exclusion of Russian banks from the global financial system and a full European Union gas embargo. and Russian oil.

In Kharkiv, Lidiya Mezhiritska stood in the wreckage of her home after missile fire turned it to rubble.

“The ‘Russian world,’ they say,” she said, wryly invoking Putin’s nationalist justification for invading Ukraine. “People, children, old people, women are dying. I don’t have a machine gun. I would definitely go (fight), regardless of my age.


Anna reported from Bucha, Ukraine. Robert Burns in Washington, Jill Lawless and Danica Kirka in London, and Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.


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