Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned yesterday’s attack on an eastern Ukrainian train station packed with refugees fleeing the region as “unconscionable” and warned that the war crime of “indiscriminately attacking civilians” would “not go unpunished”.
This comes as Ukraine confirmed that at least 50 people – including ten children – have died after the rocket attack on the Kramatorsk station. Dozens more have been injured, while officials estimated the number of people at the station at the time of the attack could be as high as 4,000. Ukrainian authorities had yesterday urged those living in the east to flee the area, amid fears that Russia could focus its assault on Donetsk and Luhansk, which are under pro-Russian control.
It is believed that the missiles which hit the station were marked with the words “for our children”, which is understood to be a message from Russian troops who believe state propaganda that atrocities are being carried out on Russian-speaking populations in the east of Ukraine.
Mr Zelensky said: “Lacking the strength and courage to fight with us on the battlefield, they (Russians) are cynically destroying the civilian population. This is an evil that has no limits. And if it is not punished, it will never stop.”
Britain’s ambassador to Ukraine, Melinda Simmons, condemned the attack, about 50 miles north of Donetsk and 80 miles west of Luhansk. Russian troops withdrew from the capital, Kyiv, earlier this week and it was expected that the Kremlin would concentrate on eastern regions of the country.
“Marking a missile ‘for children;’ and then aiming it at children at Kramatorsk is an unspeakable, brutal depravity,” she said.
Russia has insisted that it is not guilty of targeting civilians and has suggested that Ukraine has staged the attacks.
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However, there has been increasing evidence – including information from Germany’s foreign intelligence agency today, which said it had intercepted messages between Russian troops talking about killing of civilians which tie up with known bodies – that Russia is responsible for the killings.
Speaking in a press conference following a meeting with German chancellor Olaf Scholz, Mr Johnson, who also announced that the UK will send a further £100 million of high grade military equipment to Ukraine’s armed forces, said: “The attack at the train station in eastern Ukraine shows the depth to which Putin’s eleven vaunted army has sunk. At least 39 people killed and dozens wounded on a train platform crowded with women and children.
“It is a war crime indiscriminately to attack civilians and Russian crimes in Ukraine will not go unnoticed or unpunished.”
I added: “The Europe we knew just six weeks ago no longer exists.”
The equipment to be sent to Ukrainian forces includes Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles, which fly at three times the speed of sound, another 800 anti-tank missiles and precision munitions capable of lingering in the sky until directed to their target.
Mr Johnson said that he saw “little point” in trying to negotiate with Russian president Vladimir Putin, as he believed his assurances could not be trusted.
The Prime Minister said he did not criticize those such as French President Emmanuel Macron who continued to speak to Mr Putin although he saw little prospect of success.
“Negotiating with Putin does not seem to me to be full of promise. I don’t feel that he can be trusted,” he said.
“That is not to say I don’t admire the efforts of people who try to find a way through. But my own view is that I am deeply, deeply skeptical and, I’m afraid, cynical now about his assurances.”
Mr Scholz said that criticism of Mr Macron for continuing to find a diplomatic solution was “unjustified”.
He said he and Mr Johnson were united in their “horror and indignation” at Russian actions in the country.
“It is atrocious. It is an atrocious war,” he told a joint news conference. “Killing civilians is a war crime and the Russian president bears responsibility for these war crimes.”
Mr Scholz reiterated his call on Russia to agree to ceasefire and withdraw its troops from Ukraine.
Olexander Honcharenko, Major of Kramatorsk, said, hospitals were struggling to cope with the number of people wounded.
“There are a lot of seriously injured people without arms and legs,” he said.
The governor of the region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said as well as the 38 people who died at the train station, 12 others who were wounded at the scene later died in hospital.
He said 98 people in total were taken to hospital after the attack. Of the 98, 16 were children, 46 were women and 36 were men.
Mayor also stated that at the time of the shelling, there were about 4,000 people at the railway station. They were waiting for evacuation.
Nathan Mook, an aid worker who saw people crowding at the station, said he had counted between five and 10 explosions: “Two minutes after we had driven by, you feel it before you hear it: the boom, the explosion.”
Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, visited the town of Bucha, near Kyiv, which saw devastation during the Russian occupation.
“It is the unthinkable has happened here,” said von der Leyen during her visit. “We have seen the cruel face of Putin’s army.”
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