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At least 50 people, including five children, were killed after Russian forces carried out a missile strike on a railway station in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, that was being used by civilians trying to flee the fighting, Ukrainian officials said Friday.
The eastern city was one of the first places to be targeted by the Russian military when the invasion of Ukraine was launched on Feb. 24.
Here's what we know about the attack:
- Some 98 people were wounded, including 16 children, said Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the regional military administration in Donetsk.
- Kyrylenko said a Tochka-U ballistic missile was used in the attack.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the "Russian military hit the railway terminal," where crowds of people were waiting to be evacuated on trains.
- Local police said rockets struck a temporary waiting room, where "hundreds of people were waiting for the evacuation train."
- The head of Ukraine's national rail system, Oleksandr Kamyshin, said two missiles hit the station.
- Some 8,000 people per day had been going to the station to evacuate during the past two weeks. As many as 4,000 people were there when the missile struck, the mayor of Kramatorsk said.
- A journalist at the scene described the blast as a "powerful wave ... as if something just hit you on your head. And your legs couldn't keep you any longer."
- Inside the station, the attack caused panic and confusion with people afraid of more potential strikes, he said.
What Russia said:
- The Russian Ministry of Defense issued a statement denying it launched the attack, calling the strike a "provocation."
"All the statements of representatives of the Kyiv nationalist regime about the alleged 'missile attack' by Russia on April 8 at the railway station in Kramatorsk are a provocation and absolutely do not correspond to reality," the statement said.
- The Russian statement mirrors recent denials of the indiscriminate killing of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.
- The Pentagon said it finds “unconvincing” claims from Russia that its forces were not involved in the strike. “Our assessment is that this was a Russian strike and that they used a short-range ballistic missile to conduct it,” said spokesperson John Kirby.
- Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called the attack a "deliberate slaughter," saying Russian forces knew the station was “full of civilians.”
- Zelensky called it a "war crime" and vowed accountability from those involved. “We expect a firm, global response to this war crime," he said.
- World leaders condemned it, with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres saying the strike and other attacks on civilians "are gross violations of international humanitarian law."
- The US State Department said it was "yet another example of the Russian government's unjustified brutal war sowing senseless death and destruction in Ukraine."
Ukrainian journalist Alex Merkulov was at the Kramatorsk station when it was attacked by a Russian missile strike on Friday, killing at least 50 people, including five children.
His footage from the scene shows the confusion in the aftermath of the attack, with crowds trying to push in and out of the station and people crying out in pain. Bloody footsteps can be seen smeared on the floor and burning cars outside.
Merkulov, who works for Donetchina TV, said there were two sites where crowds had gathered that day.
"One was on the street where people were queueing up to board the train and to be evacuated, and the other one was the waiting area in the train station itself where people were divided and organized into several groups," he said.
"Because all of these people, they come from areas that have been in the combat action for eight years already, they know what to do as soon as there is an explosion. So the moment the explosion went bang and everybody was on the floor."
Merkulov was about 80 feet (24 meters) away from where the rocket hit, speaking to an older woman outside the station. He said he felt "right away" an "air blast — this really powerful wave."
"Although the explosion itself didn't seem to be that hard, the wave was unbelievable. It's as if something just hit you on your head. And your legs couldn't keep you any longer. You couldn't stand on them," he said.
"And you understand that something terrible happened but you're not aware what it is. And you're afraid to look up, but you know you have to do something."
Before the blast, Merkulov was speaking to people trying to evacuate. Though the station was crowded, he said it was a calm atmosphere, with people waiting for their trains, drinking coffee or lining up outside.
The blast tore that apart, creating panic and confusion.
"They were afraid, they couldn't understand what was going on, those who were waiting on the streets, they thought it would be safer to go into the building. Those who were in the building felt like they needed to leave the building and go onto the streets because they were afraid of a second strike," he said.
Merkulov said there was "no way" to process what happened.
"So many young people who came there with their parents, and they were having coffee, and everything was so peaceful, and then all of a sudden, there is this just shock and horror," he said.
Russian forces killed 132 civilians in Makariv, in the Kyiv region, the town's mayor said on Friday as Ukrainian officials continue to assess the extent of destruction around the capital and north of the country.
Local officials collected the bodies and said they had been shot by Russian forces, Mayor Vadym Tokar told Ukraine's Parliament TV.
Nearly all of Makariv's infrastructure has been destroyed, he said, adding that apartment complexes and other buildings were bombed and a hospital destroyed.
“More than a month now we are without electricity, water, gas, without telephone lines. We don’t even have essential goods at home,” Tokar said.
Makariv, he said, has been hit by a “medical catastrophe," with all doctors having been evacuated.
He also warned that people in the town need to be careful as mines are scattered in the fields.
“Our deforested areas are heavily littered with mines, and so we will work first on demining these areas before we can begin the full-fledged restoration of our infrastructure,” he said.
The town has been receiving aid and citizens are going out into the streets and doing what they can to clear the rubble, the mayor said.
Before the invasion, about 15,000 people lived in Makariv, but now fewer than 1,000 remain. Tokar said residents are gradually returning and the town is slowly recovering.
According to preliminary estimates, about 45% of Makariv has been destroyed, Tokar said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said everyone behind the Russian attack on the Kramatorsk train station will be held accountable.
“This is another war crime of Russia, for which everyone involved will be held accountable,” he said in his nightly address on Friday, adding that Russian state propaganda tried to blame Ukrainian armed forces for the attack.
“We expect a firm, global response to this war crime," he said.
Zelensky confirmed previous reports from the head of Donetsk region military administration, that at least 50 people were killed in the attack, including five children.
“Like the massacres in Bucha, as well as many other Russian war crimes, the missile strike on Kramatorsk must be one of the charges at the tribunal, which is bound to happen,” he said.
The Ukrainian President said “all the efforts of the world” will be directed to establish minute-by-minute “who did what, who gave orders, where did the rocket come from, who was carrying it, who gave the order and how the strike was coordinated.”
“Responsibility is inevitable,” he said.
A spokesperson for Hungary's Prime Minister told CNN the country will not supply weapons to support Ukraine in the conflict with Russia.
“The Hungarian standpoint is firm … we are not going to mingle in this war by means of weapons and by supplying soldiers,” said Zoltan Kovacs, the international spokesperson for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, on Friday.
In an address last month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky criticized Orbán, telling Hungary to “decide for yourself who you are with.”
Following a sweeping election victory last Sunday, Orbán hit out at Zelensky, saying his campaign “had to fight against a huge amount of opponents” including the Ukrainian President.
Kovacs told CNN that while Hungary would support Ukraine with humanitarian aid, Prime Minister Orbán rejected Zelensky’s “message.”
"As a sovereign state, don't message us. We know what to do. We do everything at our disposal, but it's not going to be by what you are trying to tell us to do. I believe Mr. Zelensky is representing the Ukrainian national interest. We see the disturbing images and the tragedy that is happening in Ukraine," he said.
"We are going to take care of everyone coming from Ukraine and the best effort is to bring these warring partners into a negotiating table."
Hungary has proposed a peace summit in its capital Budapest — a proposal called “cynical” by Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko.
Some context: Hungary has indicated it would be willing to pay for Russian gas in rubles after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree demanding that "unfriendly countries" pay for gas in the currency. It’s a move that EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told CNN would be a breach of EU sanctions.
However, Kovacs said it was "impossible" to stop buying Russian energy.
“There's no physical alternative to Russian gas and oil … these are very simple facts actually that for us, going for energy and paying for energy, whatever it takes is going to happen," he said.
On Friday, 6,665 people were evacuated via humanitarian corridors according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.
Vereshchuk shared the figures in her briefing posted on Telegram.
On Saturday there will be humanitarian corridors from Mariupol and blocked cities in the Zaporizhzhia region, as well as evacuations of the Luhansk region, said Vereshchuk.
She also called out the government officials in charge of cities like Melitopol and Energodar, which are connected to the Ukrainian humanitarian corridor to Mariupol, for violating international law of operation of humanitarian corridors and cooperating with the occupiers.
The Russians are feeling “self-imposed pressure” to achieve some sort of victory by May 9, according to two European officials. May 9 is the day Russia celebrates Victory Day over Germany in World War 2.
Traditionally Russia marks the holiday with a military victory parade through Red Square and a speech from President Vladimir Putin. With one month to go until the holiday, the officials say Russia is regrouping and shifting its forces to southeastern Ukraine — a far more limited goal than seizing large swaths of the country — with the aim of achieving some sort of regional victory.
“Consolidating and trying to at least have something to talk about is clearly in their interest,” one official said.
The official noted that the time pressure could lead Russian forces to make mistakes, compounded by the logistical issues and the morale problems they already face.
The second European official said that a political timeline for the war could lead to a “military disaster as a consequence.”
But it could also lead Russian forces to commit more atrocities, said the first official.
“The stench of these war crimes is going to hang over these Russian armed forces for many years,” the official said.
The Russian military is regrouping in the east of Ukraine and plans to advance toward the city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s Chief of Defense Intelligence told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Friday.
"They are regrouping towards the [Ukrainian] city called Izium via Belgorod. They are moving through Belgorod. They get additional troops in Belgorod in order to compensate their losses in Ukraine," Major-General Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine's Chief of Defense Intelligence, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an interview in Kyiv.
"They plan to advance towards Kharkiv first of all. They will try to finish off the city of Mariupol and only after that, they might try to initiative advances towards Kyiv," he said.
Budanov called on Ukraine’s allies to provide “really serious” military support to help it counter the Russian offensive. He said heavy artillery, anti-aircraft missile systems and combat planes were needed to use “against [Russian] ground forces”.
“Ukraine needs really serious support in heavy armament, and we need it not tomorrow, we need it today,” he said.
Budanov said the weaknesses of the Russian military were on display in Ukraine. Russia’s troops were “defeated” in the Kyiv region and its military effort hampered by logistics, he said.