Russia claims Ukraine behind fatal missile attack
A Tochka U ballistic missile, which reportedly killed dozens of civilians in the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk on Friday, came from a town under the control of Ukrainian forces, the Russian Defense Ministry has claimed.
The missile was fired from Dobropole, around 45km southwest of the city, Moscow stated.
The deadly strike hit the main train station in Kramatorsk when an estimated 4,000 people were waiting for evacuation trains there. The latest casualty count by the city administration said 39 people were killed in the incident and 87 were injured.
Kramatorsk is a city in the northern part of the Donetsk region, and is claimed by the Donetsk People’s Republic as part of its territory. When hostilities broke out in eastern Ukraine in the wake of the 2014 Maidan, the city remained under Kiev’s control.
Kiev accused Russia of hitting the station, claiming civilians were targeted deliberately with the intent to kill. President Volodymyr Zelensky said it serves as the latest example that Russia is “evil that knows no boundaries.”
Initial claims from Ukrainian officials said an Iskander missile was used, but images of a Tochka U tail part taken at the scene later flooded social media. Kramatorsk Mayor Aleksandr Goncharenko said missile debris was found 40 meters from where most of the damage was done.
The Russian Defense Ministry denied any responsibility for the attack. It said that Ukrainian troops must have targeted the station to disrupt the evacuation and keep civilians in the city so that they could be used as human shields during an upcoming fight for it.
The ministry claimed that Kiev is the only party in the Ukraine conflict that uses outdated Soviet-made Tochka U missiles. It said that pro-Ukraine accounts on social media claim that Russia has them as well, but the images presented as evidence were taken in Belarus, which does have some Tochka U systems in its arsenal.
Belarusian troops test-fired these types of missiles during a joint exercise with Russia in mid-February. Minsk is a close ally of Russia and allowed it to use its territory to launch the offensive in Ukraine, but insisted it did not provide any of its forces for the operation.
Moscow attacked the neighboring state 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 of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has since 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.