Zelenskyy says train station attack was war crime as he urges tough global response

  • As people tried to flee eastern Ukraine a missile hit the train station killing 52, including five children, ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia reports

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he wants a tough global response after a missile strike struck a train station packed with civilians trying to escape an imminent Russian offensive, killing at least 52 people, including five children and wounding dozens.

In his nightly address late on Friday, Zelenskyy said the strike on the Kramatorsk train station in eastern Ukraine amounted to another war crime for an international tribunal to consider.

“Like the massacres in Bucha, like many other Russian war crimes, the missile attack on Kramatorsk should be one of the charges at the tribunal that must be held,” he said.

"All world efforts will be directed to establish every minute of who did what, who gave what orders, where the missile came from, who transported it, who gave the command and how this strike was agreed."

The attack on the train station in Kramatorsk killed at least 52 people. Credit: AP

Russia denied it was responsible for the strike and accused Ukraine's military of firing the missile as a false-flag operation so Moscow would be blamed for civilian slayings.

A Russian Defence Ministry spokesman detailed the missile's trajectory and Ukrainian troop positions to bolster the argument.

Ukrainian servicemen carry a body after Russian shelling at the railway station in Kramatorsk. Credit: AP

Ukraine's state railway company said in a statement that residents of the country's contested Donbas region, where Russia has refocused its forces after failing to take over the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, could flee through other train stations on Saturday.

“The railways do not stop the task of taking everyone to safety,” the statement on the messaging app Telegram said.

Photos taken after Friday's missile strike showed corpses covered with tarpaulins, and the remnants of a rocket painted with the words "for the children" in Russian. The phrasing seemed to suggest the missile was sent to avenge the loss or subjugation of children, although its exact meaning remained unclear.

Ukrainian servicemen stand next to a fragment of a Tochka-U missile with a writing in Russian "for children". Credit: AP

About 4,000 civilians had been in and around the station, heeding calls to leave before fighting intensifies in the Donbas region, the office of Ukraine’s prosecutor-general said.

“There are many people in a serious condition, without arms or legs,” Kramatorsk Mayor Oleksandr Goncharenko said, adding that the local hospital was struggling to treat everyone.

Ukrainians crowd into the train station to avoid further missile strikes. Credit: CNN

British Defence Minister Ben Wallace denounced the attack as a war crime, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called it “completely unacceptable.”

“There are almost no words for it,” European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who is visiting Ukraine, told reporters. “The cynical behaviour (by Russia) has almost no benchmark anymore.”

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Zelenskyy said he spoke with Ms von der Leyen Friday and urged the EU to impose a full embargo on Russian oil and gas.

“It is energy exports that provide the lion’s share of Russia’s income and allow the Russian leadership to believe in their impunity,” Zelenskyy said.

The attack came as workers elsewhere in the country unearthed at least 67 bodies from a mass grave near a church in Bucha, a town near Kyiv, where graphic evidence of dozens of killings emerged following the withdrawal of Russian forces.

Russia has falsely claimed that the scenes in Bucha were staged.