Russian forces Wednesday launched a rocket attack on a Ukrainian train station on the embattled country’s Independence Day, killing 22 people, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said after warning for days that Moscow might attempt “something particularly cruel”.
The lethal attack took place in Chaplyne, a town of near 3,500 people in the central Dnipropetrovsk area, Ukrainian news agencies quoted Zelenskyy as telling the U.N. Security Council via video. The president’s office also announced that an 11-year-old child was killed by rocket fire earlier in the day in the settlement.
“Chaplyne is our pain today,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to the country.
At one point, Zelenskyy put the number of wounded at about 50. The deputy head of Zelenskyy’s workplace later said 22 people were wounded in the attack, which hit five passenger rail cars.
Ukraine had been bracing for especially heavy attacks around the national holiday that commemorates Ukraine’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Wednesday also marked the six-month point in the war.
Days ahead of Independence Day, Kyiv authorities banned large gatherings in the capital through Thursday for fear of missile strikes.
Residents of Kyiv, which has been largely spared in the latest months, woke up Wednesday to air raid sirens, but no instant strikes followed. As the day wore on, Russian bombardments were announced in the country’s east, west, and center, with the most serious attack apparently at the train station.
Outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson marked the holiday with a visit to Kyiv — his third since the war broke out — and other European leaders used the occasion to pledge unwavering support for Ukraine, locked in a battle that was widely expected to be a lightning conquest by Moscow but has turned into a grinding war of attrition. U.S. President Joe Biden declared a new military aid package of nearly $3 billion to help Ukrainian forces fight for years to come.
Over the weekend, Zelenskyy cautioned that Russia “may try to do something particularly nasty, something particularly cruel” this week. He repeated the warnings ahead of the train station attack, saying, “Russian provocations and brutal strikes are a possibility.”
Nevertheless, a festive atmosphere prevailed during the day at Kyiv’s Maidan square as thousands of residents posed for pictures next to burned-out Russian tanks put on display. Folk singers set up, and many revelers — ignoring the sirens — were out and about in traditionally embroidered dresses and shirts.
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