Kyiv, Aug 25 (Reuters) – A Russian attack killed 25 civilians when missiles hit a train station and residential area in eastern Ukraine, officials in the capital Kyiv said, as the country celebrated its Independence Day under heavy bombardment.
The death toll rose from an initially reported 22 after three more bodies were found in the rubble of the town of Chaplyne following the rescue operation, Ukrainian presidential aide Kyrylo Tymoshenko said on Thursday.
The Vyshgorod region, directly north of Kyiv, was also the target of missile attacks, but no casualties were reported, regional official Olexiy Kuleba said on the Telegram channel.
Missile strikes and artillery bombardments on frontline cities such as Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Nikopol, and Dnipro followed the warnings of President Volodymyr Zelensky about the risk of “hideous Russian provocations” ahead of the 31st anniversary of independence from the dominated Soviet regime. from Moscow.
August 24 also marked six months since Russian forces invaded Ukraine, sparking the most devastating conflict in Europe since World War II.
As rescue operations wrapped up in Chaplyne, residents of this small town, located about 145 km (90 miles) west of Russian-occupied Donetsk, mourned loved ones in the rubble of their homes destroyed.
Local resident Sergiy lost his 11-year-old son in the strike. “We looked for him out there in the ruins, and he was lying here. Nobody knew he was here. Nobody knew,” he said, crouching down beside her covered body.
The Russian Defense Ministry did not release immediate comments on the attack. Speaking in Uzbekistan, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu repeated the line Moscow had deliberately slowed down what he called a “special military operation” in Ukraine to avoid civilian casualties. Read more
Russia denies targeting civilians. He also said that rail infrastructure is a legitimate target because it is used to supply Ukraine with Western weapons.
Commenting on the attack, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter: “Russia’s missile attack on a train station full of civilians in Ukraine fits a pattern of atrocity. We will continue, with partners around the world, to support Ukraine and hold Russian officials to account.”
Wednesday’s festive celebrations were called off, but many Ukrainians marked the occasion by wearing embroidered shirts typical of the national costume.
Ukraine declared its independence after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in August 1991 and its people voted overwhelmingly for independence in a referendum in December.
Air raid sirens sounded at least seven times in Kyiv during the day, although there were no attacks. Ukrainian authorities said airstrike warnings were issued 189 times across the country on Wednesday, more than at any other time in the six-month conflict.
Zelensky and his wife, Olena, joined religious leaders for a service at the 11th-century Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv and laid flowers at a memorial to fallen soldiers.
The 44-year-old leader said Ukraine would take back Russian-occupied areas in eastern Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.
AWAY FROM THE FRONT LINE
Ukrainian forces shot down a Russian drone in the Vinnytsia region as Russian missiles landed in the Khmelnytskyi region, regional authorities said, both west of Kyiv and hundreds of kilometers from the front lines. No damage or casualties were reported.
Citing local sources, state broadcaster Suspilne TV reported explosions near the Antonivsky Bridge over the Dnipro River in the southern Kherson region early Thursday, an important supply route for Russian troops in the region.
The Southern Ukrainian Military Command also reported missile attacks on the Nova Kakhovka dam at the crossing of the Dnipro River, another important Russian supply route in the Kherson region.
Reuters could not verify the accounts on the battlefield.
At a UN Security Council session on Wednesday, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia reiterated Moscow’s motivation for its actions, saying its goal was to “denazify and demilitarize ‘Ukraine to eliminate threats’.” obvious” to Russia’s security.
Moscow’s position has been rejected by Ukraine and the West as an unfounded pretext for a war of imperialist conquest.
US President Joe Biden announced nearly $3 billion in arms and equipment for Ukraine on Wednesday in Washington, bringing his administration’s total military aid commitment to more than $13.5 billion.
Russia has made little progress in recent months after its troops were pushed back from Kyiv in the first weeks of the war.
Ukraine’s top military intelligence official Kyrylo Budanov said on Wednesday that the Russian offensive was slowing down due to low morale and physical fatigue in its ranks and Moscow’s “depleted” resource base. Read more
Russian forces have seized areas in the south, including those on the Black Sea and Azov coasts and large swathes of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces that make up the eastern Donbas region.
The war has killed thousands of civilians, forced more than a third of Ukraine’s 41 million people to flee their homes, left cities in ruins, and rocked the global economy, creating shortages of essential grains and driving up the prices of electricity.