what we know about the bombing of Kramatorsk station

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Civilians targeted as they tried to flee advancing fighting in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. Kramatorsk station was hit by a bombardment on Friday morning April 8.

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According to the latest official report from the regional authorities, 52 people were killed and 109 injured. Here is what we know about this massacre which arouses the indignation of Westerners.

Bodies in bags and bloodstained sidewalks

The missile fell on the station around 10:30 a.m., at a time when, like every day, hundreds of inhabitants gather there in the hope of boarding a train or a car that will allow them to flee the Russian offensive, relates the special envoy of France Télévisions on the spot, Maryse Burgot.

Arriving on the scene after the bombardment, the team of special envoys from France Télévisions filmed scenes of chaos. Bodies piled up on the ground, in body bags or under tarpaulins, blood-stained sidewalks, abandoned suitcases, a crying woman kissing the lifeless body of a loved one…

A man, who had just arrived at the station with his grandmother, went away to buy cigarettes, just at the moment of the bombardment. “I just pulled his lifeless body out of the car,” he tells France 2. “Everything exploded all of a sudden, a lot of people died”says another man.

A strategic target

Part of the Donbass has been controlled since 2014 by pro-Russian separatists. Kramatorsk is the “capital” of this area still under Ukrainian control. A region that lives in the anguish of a major and imminent Russian offensive. Because after withdrawing his troops from the kyiv region and northern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the total conquest of Donbass his priority. The city of Kramatorsk is now surrounded to the south and east by the pro-Russian separatist “republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk, and by advancing Russian troops in the north.

The Kramatorsk region and its inhabitants are under the threat of a large-scale military operation which would take them in a pincer movement. In recent days, the Ukrainian authorities have therefore ceased to call on the population to evacuate the Donbass as soon as possible. And Kramatorsk saw an influx of displaced people leaving their homes to take refuge in the West, far from the fightingexplains Maryse Burgot on France 3.

Moscow denies being responsible for the strike

Moscow has denied being responsible for the strike. The Kremlin claimed not to have the type of missile which would have been used and denounced a “provocation” Ukrainian. “Ukrainian armed forces committed a new war crime on April 8, striking with a Tochka-U tactical missile”reacted the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Defense accused kyiv of having “orchestra” hit her for “prevent the departure of the population of the city in order to be able to use it as a human shield”. A strategy that is not new: Moscow regularly denounces “Provocation” Ukrainians to defend themselves against accusations of atrocities and war crimes, as in Boutcha.

After the bombardment, the remains of a missile were visible on the forecourt of the station, as noted by Les Révélateurs, the image verification service of France Télévisions. It could be read in Russian “For our children”. This recurring expression of pro-Russian separatists is a reference to their children killed since the first Donbass war, which began in 2014.

Ukrainian president calls for “a firm response”

In response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced the methods “inhuman” of Russia. “Without the strength and the courage to face us on the battlefield, they cynically annihilate the civilian population. It is an evil that has no limits. And if it is not punished, it will not will never stop”, he wrote on Telegram on Friday. “This is another Russian war crime, for which everyone involved will be held accountable.”said the Ukrainian president in a video message on Saturday morning. “World powers have already condemned Russia’s attack on Kramatorsk. We expect a strong global response to this war crime”he continued.

Western leaders condemn

Volodymyr Zelensky was heard by the President of the United States. This bloody attack on the “capital city” of the part of Donbass still under Ukrainian control is a “new horrible atrocity committed by Russia”reacted in a tweet Joe Biden.

A senior US Department of Defense official dismissed the arguments of the Russian authorities. “I note that initially they reported a successful strike, and that they retracted only after reports of civilian casualties”said the official.

It’s a “despicable attack”, according to the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, who arrived in Ukraine on Friday for a support visit, accompanied by the head of diplomacy of the European Union, Josep Borrell. Both went in the late afternoon to Boutcha, near kyiv, where dozens of corpses wearing civilian clothes, some with their hands tied behind their backs, were discovered in early April after the departure of Russian forces.

The French head of state also denounced the bombardment of Kramatorsk as “abominable”. More generally, Emmanuel Macron then added that France was in the process of “gather the evidence” versus “Russian war crimes” in Ukraine. “We sent gendarmes and magistrates in cooperation to help (…) to collect evidence of the guilt of Russian soldiers and the identity of these Russian soldiers”he added.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs even spoke of a “crime against humanity”. “They hit the station, on refugees, so on civilians, so it responds to crimes against humanity”estimated Jean-Yves Le Drian, Friday evening on France 5, in an obvious reference to the Russian forces. “It’s sordid, one more carnage”said the head of French diplomacy. “These crimes cannot go unpunished”he hammered, also referring to the massacres of civilians perpetrated in the suburbs of kyiv.

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