At least 39 people were killed and 87 wounded on Friday when two Russian missiles reportedly struck a railway station in Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues into its 44th day, Ukraine's Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.
The station, located in the Donetsk Oblast, is used to evacuate civilians from areas under bombardment from Russian forces.
About 4,000 people, most of them elderly, women and children, were at the railway station when it was hit by Russian rockets, Mayor Oleksander Honcharenko said.
It is unclear which kind of missile was fired, with Ukrainian public figures having stated alternatively that it was an Iskander or a Tochka. However, only Russia has access to Iskanders.
On one of the missiles was written the words "for children," with many of the evacuees at the train station consisting of children, something UK Ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons tweeted as being "unspeakably brutal Russian depravity."
"Russians knew that the train station in Kramatorsk was full of civilians waiting to be evacuated. Yet they stroke it with a ballistic missile, killing at least 30 and injuring at least a hundred people," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted. "This was a deliberate slaughter. We will bring each war criminal to justice."
Russians knew that the train station in Kramatorsk was full of civilians waiting to be evacuated. Yet they stroke it with a ballistic missile, killing at least 30 and injuring at least a hundred people. This was a deliberate slaughter. We will bring each war criminal to justice. pic.twitter.com/cq0CX9wovV— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) April 8, 2022
Kyrylenko published a photograph online showing several bodies on the ground beside piles of suitcases and other luggage. Armed police wearing flak jackets stood beside them.
Another photo showed rescue services tackling what appeared to be a fire, with a pall of grey smoke rising into the air.
"The 'Rashists' ('Russian fascists') knew very well where they were aiming and what they wanted: they wanted to sow panic and fear, they wanted to take as many civilians as possible," he wrote in an online post. He further added that their goal was to keep civilians from evacuating and said the missiles were carrying cluster munitions.
According to Ukrainian President's Office adviser Oleksy Arestovych, Russia's attack on the Kramatorsk railway station was preceded by thorough reconnaissance.
"It should be understood that such strikes are preceded by careful reconnaissance of targets," he explained on Facebook, as reported by Ukrinform.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she was appalled by a reported Russian attack on a train station in Ukraine.
"The targeting of civilians is a war crime. We will hold Russia and Putin to account," she said on Twitter.
The White House on Friday decried the "horrific and devastating images" of a deadly attack on a train station in Ukraine.
The United States will continue to support Ukraine against Russian aggression, White House spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said in an interview with CNN.
Russia blames Ukraine
In response, Eduard Basurin, the press secretary of the pro-Russian separatist-controlled breakaway state the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), claimed that the rocket strike was not done by Russian troops or pro-Russian forces and was actually a "provocation" by the Ukrainian military, TASS reported.
DPR head Denis Pushilin even slammed the missile strike as a war crime, TASS reported.
Russia's Defense Ministry also denied responsibility for the attack, TASS reported.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the missile used to attack the station is only used by the Ukrainian military and was the same type used by Ukraine on March 14 when they allegedly struck a city in Donetsk, killing 17 people, RIA reported.
This type of missile, Basurin explained, was a Tochka, which he stressed in an interview with Russian TV station Channel One that was not used in Russia or the pro-Russia separatist-controlled breakaways.
Tochka missiles are a Soviet-era tactical ballistic missiles. They come in a few forms, some of which are large and inaccurate while others are much smaller and more precise.
Russia has used Tochka missiles before, specifically during the 2008 South Ossetia war. Further, they have been used extensively by the Syrian Army, which serves the Russian-aligned regime of President Bashar Assad, up until at least 2018.
While Ukraine has used them in the current conflict with Russia, it is believed that Russia has used one as well at the start of the invasion to strike near a hospital in the Donetsk Oblast. Indeed, Amnesty International identified the Russian missile as a Tochka.
Russia denies having any more Tochka missiles, claiming to have replaced them with Iskanders since 2019, according to TASS.
Deleted launch posts
Video and images of the launching of the two missiles were shared on Telegram 20 minutes before they hit the Kramatorsk railway station. Pro-Russian journalists soon quickly wrote about the strike on Ukrainian targets, but then quickly removed these posts, Pravda reported.
The Ukrainian outlet shared screenshots of the Telegram chat depicting images of the missiles in the sky, indicating that they were fired from a location in the Russian-controlled areas of the Donetsk Oblast.
Запуск двох ракет в окупованому Шахтарську незадовго до ракетного удару по Краматорську pic.twitter.com/TGKStZQZ1c— Українська правда ✌️ (@ukrpravda_news) April 8, 2022
Video of the launches was also shared by Pravda on social media.
Russia pulls out of the North
Russian forces have fully withdrawn out of northern Ukraine, according to a UK defense intelligence update Friday morning as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues into its 44th day.
According to the update, the Russian troops pulled out of the North have gone into Russia-allied Belarus, with at least some set to be transferred to fight in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
This mass redeployment will not be immediate, however, and is set to take at least a week due to the need for significant replenishment.
The Belarusian army is conducting operational and combat training in landfills throughout the country, with up to four battalions working to strengthen the Ukraine-Belarus border, according to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
In addition, there are also fears in Ukraine that airstrikes and missiles could be launched into the country from Belarus.
According to the Ukrainian military, Russia is also taking "a selection of so-called 'volunteers'" of Belarusians to build up new units of a private military company.
Negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian officials for an end to hostilities are continuing online, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Friday. However, after Ukraine's discovery of the alleged Bucha Massacre upon retaking the city from Russia, the mood has shifted considerably, Podolyak said.
Russian forces currently "have no advantage" on the war front, the adviser added.
He further criticized any possible temporary truce between Ukraine and Russia as being "a war postponed for the future," something Ukraine doesn't need.
The fighting in the East and South continues
While Russia seems to have finally removed itself from the North, its offensive in the South and East continue, with Ukrainian cities still under fire from Russian shelling, according to the UK defense intelligence update. Notably, Russian troops have advanced further south from Izium, a strategically valuable city under Russian control.
Ukrainian officials say Russian forces have been regrouping for a new offensive, and that Moscow plans to seize as much territory as it can in the Donbas.
According to the Ukrainian military, Russian troops continue to push into the Donetsk Oblast, specifically the besieged port city of Mariupol, which continues to hold out amid an ongoing humanitarian crisis, as well as the towns of Popasna and Rubizhne.
Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko put the civilian death toll in the port city on the Sea of Azov at about 5,000 over a week ago, and tens of thousands are still trapped without power and with few supplies.
According to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, 90% of all buildings in Mariupol have been destroyed.
#Mariupol now. 90% of buildings are destroyed.The city is in a state of humanitarian catastrophe: the dead are buried in mass graves, there is a lack of water, food, no communications. Mariupol has been besieged since the first days of the #Russian war against #Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/FyoWAikKwu— MFA of Ukraine (@MFA_Ukraine) April 8, 2022
Fighting over the city continues. According to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has sent troops to aid Russia's invasion, 98% of Mariupol has been "liberated," RIA reported.
Russian troops also continue to maintain a blockade of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, and have even laid mines to stop Ukrainian troops.
In the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, which are heavily controlled by the pro-Russian separatist-run breakaway states, seven Russian attacks have been repelled in the last 24 hours, according to the Ukrainian military.
According to Ukraine's Luhansk Oblast Governor Serhiy Haidai, Russian forces are accumulating in the area but have yet to breach through the Ukrainian defenses.
Airstrike and artillery shelling of civilian infrastructure by Russian forces continue in several localities throughout Ukraine.
Overnight, Russian troops launched missiles at the Odesa Oblast, possibly heading for Tiraspol airport, though Ukrainian air defenses were able to intercept them, Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform reported, citing the Odesa Regional Military Administration spokesperson.
This is near Transnistria, the pro-Russian breakaway region in Moldova. It is feared that Russia could use Transnistria as a means to further support the ongoing invasion.
Also near Odesa, Russian missile strikes took down a center that collected and trained foreign fighters aiding in the Ukrainian defense against Russian forces, TASS reported Friday, citing the Russian Defense Ministry.
Overall, Russian airstrikes and missile attacks destroyed 81 military facilities in Ukraine, TASS reported, quoting Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov.
Ukraine said it aimed to establish up to 10 humanitarian corridors to evacuate trapped civilians on Friday, but civilians trying to flee besieged Mariupol will have to use private vehicles.
However, according to Podolyak, there are discussions of possibly evacuating Mariupol residents by sea.
The 10 planned safe corridors announced by Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk were all in southern and eastern Ukraine.
According to her, the corridors are meant to evacuate people from the Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts.
Vereshchuk said 4,676 civilians had been evacuated from Ukrainian towns and cities on Thursday.
This is a developing story.