22 killed in Ukraine Independence Day attack

Kyiv, Ukraine — Russian forces launched a rocket attack on a Ukrainian train station on the independence day of the embattled country on Wednesday, killing 22 people, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said after warning for days that Moscow could attempt “something particularly cruel” this week.

The deadly attack took place in Chaplyne, a town of about 3,500 in the central Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukrainian news agencies quoted Zelenskyy as telling the UN Security Council via video. The president’s office also reported 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 overnight video address to the nation.

At one point, Zelenskyy estimated the number of injured at about 50. The deputy chief of Zelenskyy’s office later said 22 people were injured in the attack, which hit five passenger train cars.

Ukraine had braced itself for particularly heavy attacks around the national holiday commemorating Ukraine’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Wednesday also marked the six-month point in the war.

Days before Independence Day, Kiev authorities have banned large gatherings in the capital until Thursday over fears of rocket attacks.

Residents of Kiev, which has been largely spared in recent months, woke up Wednesday to airstrikes sirens, but no immediate strikes followed. As the day wore on, Russian bombing raids were reported in the east, west and center of the country, with the most serious attack apparently at the train station.

Outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson marked the holiday with a visit to Kiev – his third since the outbreak of war – and other European leaders took the opportunity to show unwavering support for Ukraine, which was embroiled in a struggle that it was widely expected to be a lightning strike through Moscow but has turned into a battle of attrition. US President Joe Biden has announced a new military aid package of nearly $3 billion to help Ukrainian troops fight in the coming years.

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Over the weekend, Zelenskyy warned that Russia “might try to do something particularly vicious, something particularly cruel” this week. He repeated the warnings ahead of the attack on the train station, saying: “Russian provocations and brutal strikes are a possibility.”

Nevertheless, there was a festive atmosphere in Kiev’s Maidan Square during the day, as thousands of residents posed for photos next to burnt-out Russian tanks on display. Folk singers mounted, and many revelers – ignoring the sirens – were out and about in traditionally embroidered dresses and shirts.

Others were afraid.

“I can’t sleep at night because of what I see and hear about what is being done in Ukraine,” said a pensioner who gave only her first name Tetyana, her voice trembling with emotion. “This is not a war. It is the destruction of the Ukrainian people.”

In a holiday message to the country, Zelenskyy exulted over Ukraine’s success in repelling Moscow’s troops since the invasion, saying: “On February 24, we were told: You have no chance. On August 24, we say: Happy Independence Day, Ukraine !”

Britain’s Johnson urged Western allies to assist Ukraine throughout the winter.

“This is not the time to come up with bland negotiating proposals,” he said. “You can’t negotiate with a bear if he’s eating your leg or with a robber if he’s pinned you to the floor.”

A car bomb outside Moscow that killed the 29-year-old daughter of right-wing Russian political theorist Alexander Dugin on Saturday also heightened fears that Russia would intensify its attacks on Ukraine this week. Russian officials have blamed Ukraine for the death of Darya Dugina, a pro-Kremlin TV commentator. Ukraine has denied any involvement.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops unexpectedly encountered much Ukrainian resistance during their invasion and abandoned their attempt to storm the capital in the spring. The fighting has turned into a slog that has reduced neighborhoods to rubble and sent shockwaves through the global economy.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, speaking at a meeting of his colleagues from a Russian-China-dominated security organization on Wednesday, claimed the slow pace of Moscow’s military action was due to what he said was an attempt to to save citizens.

Russian forces have repeatedly attacked civilian areas in cities, including hospitals and a Mariupol theater where hundreds of people sought shelter.

But Shoigu said Russia is carrying out attacks with precision weapons against Ukrainian military targets, and “everything is being done to avoid civilian casualties”.

“No doubt it slows down the pace of the offensive, but we are doing it intentionally,” he said.

On the battlefield, Russian forces attacked several towns and villages in eastern Donetsk province for 24 hours, killing one person, authorities said. A building materials superstore in the city of Donetsk was hit by a grenade and burst into flames, the mayor said. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

In the Dnipropetrovsk region, Russians again shelled the towns of Nikopol and Marhanets, damaging several buildings and injuring people, authorities said. Russian troops also shelled the city of Zaporizhzhya, but there were no casualties.

In addition, Russian missiles hit unspecified targets in the Khmelnytskyi region, about 300 kilometers (180 miles) west of Kiev, the regional governor said. Attacks have rarely occurred.


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Varenytsia reported from Pokrovsk, Ukraine. Associated Press writers Hanna Arhirova in Kiev and Lolita C. Baldor and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.


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