by Adam Schreck and Kara Anna
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A day after a missile attack on a train station killed at least 52 people and injured more than 100, civil evacuations proceeded in a patch of war-torn eastern Ukraine on Saturday, where thousands of people expected. Asked to leave ahead of time. Russian invasion.
In the wake of the attack in Kramatorsk, several European leaders attempted to show solidarity with Ukraine, with the Austrian chancellor and British prime minister visiting Kyiv – the capital city that Russia failed to capture and where troops had retreated a few days earlier. . UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, where Johnson’s office said they discussed Britain’s “long-term support”.
Zelensky noted the increased support in an Associated Press interview, but expressed dismay when asked whether the weapons and other equipment Ukraine received from the West were enough to change the outcome of the war.
“Not now,” he said, switching to English for emphasis. “Of course it’s not enough.”
More than six weeks after Russia first invaded Ukraine, it has pulled its troops from around Kyiv, the northern part of the country, and focused on the Donbass region in the east. Western military analysts said an arc of territory in eastern Ukraine was under Russian control, from Kharkiv – Ukraine’s second largest city – to the north – to Kherson in the south. But according to Western assessment, Ukrainian counterattacks are threatening Russian control of Kherson, and Ukrainian forces are repulsing Russian attacks elsewhere in the Donbass region in the southeast.
Ukrainian authorities have called on civilians to get out before the Russian military strikes in the east. With trains not running out of Kramatorsk on Saturday, panicked residents boarded buses or looked for other ways to leave, fearing such unrelenting attacks by Russian invaders and businesses that ditch food in other cities elsewhere in Ukraine. shortages, demolished buildings and lead to death.
“It was scary. Horror, scary,” one resident told British broadcaster Sky, recalling Friday’s attack on the train station. “Heaven forbid, to live through it all over again. No, I don’t want to.”
Ukraine’s state railway company said in a statement that residents of Kramatorsk and other parts of the country’s disputed Donbass region could flee from other railway stations. Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk said 10 evacuation corridors were planned for Saturday.
Zelensky called the attack on the railway station the latest example of war crimes by Russian forces and said it should prompt the West to do more to help defend its country.
Russia denied that it was responsible and blamed Moscow for civilian casualties with the Ukrainian military firing at the station. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman gave details of the missile’s trajectory and the position of the Ukrainian military to bolster the argument.
Western experts and Ukrainian officials insist that Russia launched the weapon. On the remains of the rocket were written the words “for children” in Russian. The phrases seem to suggest that the missile was sent to avenge the loss or subjugation of children, although its exact meaning remained unclear.
Western experts rejected Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov’s claim that the Russian military “does not use” Tochka-U missiles that hit the train station, which is in the Ukrainian government-controlled area in the Donbass.
The attack came as Ukrainian authorities worked to identify victims and document possible war crimes by Russian troops in northern Ukraine. The mayor of Buka, a city near Kyiv where graphic evidence of civilian killings emerged after the Russians withdrew, said search teams were still searching for bodies by shooting people from close range in yards, parks and city squares .
According to Ukraine’s prosecutor general, workers removed 67 bodies from a mass grave near a church on Friday. Russia falsely claimed that the scenes were staged in Buka.
Ukrainian authorities and Western officials have repeatedly accused Russian forces of atrocities in the war that began with the February 24 invasion of Russia. The prosecutor general’s office said on Saturday that a total of 176 children had been killed and 324 others were injured.
Speaking to the AP inside the heavily guarded presidential office complex in Kyiv, Zelensky said he was committed to negotiating a diplomatic end to the war, even if Russia “tortured” Ukraine. He also believed that peace would not come soon. Russian President Vladimir Putin or other top officials have not been included in the talks so far.
“We have to fight, but fight for life. You can’t fight with dust when there is nothing and there are no people. That’s why it’s important to stop this war.”
Ukrainian officials have said they expect to find more mass killings once they arrive in the southern port city of Mariupol, which is also in the Donbass and subject to a month-long blockade and intense fighting.
As journalists who were largely absent from the city began to return, new images emerged of the devastation caused by an airstrike on a theater last month that reportedly killed hundreds of asylum-seekers.
Military analysts had predicted for weeks that Russia would be successful in taking Mariupol, but said Ukrainian defenders were still fighting. The city’s location on the Azov Sea is important for the establishment of a land bridge from the Crimean peninsula, which Russia had seized from Ukraine eight years earlier.
Many civilians trying to evacuate are now accustomed to living in or near a war zone as Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces in the Donbass, a mostly Russian-speaking, industrial zone, since 2014.
Ukrainian officials have urged Western powers to send more weapons and punish Russia further with sanctions, which include ousting Russian banks from the global financial system and total EU sanctions on Russian gas and oil.
The deaths of civilians at the railway station prompted a new expression of outrage from Western leaders and pledges that Russia would face further retaliation. On Saturday, Russia’s defense ministry tried to counter the dominant international narrative by re-raising the ghost of Ukraine’s false flag and misinformation.
A spokesman for the ministry, Major General Igor Konashenkov, alleged that Ukraine’s security services were preparing a “whimsically staged” media operation in Irpin, another city near Kyiv. Konashenkov said the plan was to show — falsely, he said — civilian casualties at the hands of the Russians and to stage the murder of a fake Russian intelligence team that intended to kill witnesses. The claims could not be independently verified.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehmer said during a visit to Kyiv that he expected more EU sanctions against Russia, but defended his country’s opposition to cutting Russian gas deliveries.
A package of sanctions imposed this week “will not be the last,” the chancellor said, adding that “as long as people are dying, every approval is insufficient.” Austria is militarily neutral and is not a member of NATO.
Johnson’s visit, which was not previously announced, came a day after Britain gave Ukraine an additional 100 million pounds ($130 million) in high-grade military equipment.
Anna reported from Buka, Ukraine. Robert Burns in Washington, Jill Lawless and Danica Kirka in London, and Associated Press reporters from around the world contributed to this report.
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