Dozens reported killed in Donbass rocket strike
An attack on a train station in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, has reportedly killed at least 30 people. Kiev immediately accused Russia of being responsible while Moscow-backed local forces have blamed the Ukrainian military for the deaths.
Images from the scene show emergency services dealing with a fire near the contested city’s central station, with what appeared to be bodies of people scattered around.
A photo of what appears to be part of a missile lying on the ground was circulated on social media. The projectile had a note “for the children” painted on it in Russian.
Ukraine’s state rail operator said at least 30 people were killed and over 100 injured in the incident. The head of the Kiev-appointed Donetsk Region administration, Pavel Kirilenko, claimed the deaths were caused by a Russian Iskander missile. He said the projectile had a clustered munition warhead.
Ukrainian presidential advisor Alexey Arestovich likewise claimed the weapon to be an Iskander.
However, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was a Tochka U, which he insisted was fired by “Russian monsters”. Zelensky alleged that Ukraine’s opponents deliberately targeted civilians in Kramatorsk and said that thousands of people were at the station waiting for evacuation.
The Moscow-backed militia, which consider Kramatorsk as part of the Donetsk People’s Republic, claimed the missile was a Tochka U of the Ukrainian forces. It leadership said Ukraine has a long record of deploying the weapon system that neither Russia nor the DPR forces use.
Mikhail Khodarenok, a retired Russian Armed Forces colonel and military commentator for RT, said the images from the scene do not resemble the impact of a Tochka U. “Its armament section weighs more than 400 kilograms (881 pounds),” he said, adding that such a powerful missile would have caused a lot more damage to the surrounding area.
Kramatorsk remained under Kiev’s control in 2014, when the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine flared after an armed coup in Ukraine. Last week, DPR head Denis Pushilin called on residents of Kramatorks to flee the city. He said Ukrainian nationalist forces could block all evacuation attempts at any moment.
Moscow attacked its neighbor in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.