POKROVSK, Ukraine (AP) — The death toll from a Russian rocket attack as Ukraine observed its Independence Day has risen to 25, including an 11-year-old boy found under the rubble of a house and a 6-year-old killed in a car fire near a train station that was the target, a Ukrainian official said Thursday.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said its forces used an Iskander missile to strike a military train that was carrying Ukrainian troops and equipment to the front line in eastern Ukraine. The ministry claimed more than 200 reservists “were destroyed on their way to the combat zone.”
The deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, did not say if all the 25 victims he reported from Wednesday’s attack were civilians. A total of 31 people sustained injuries, he said.
The lethal strike in Chaplyne, a town of about 3,500 residents in the central Dnipropetrovsk region, nonetheless served as a brutally painful reminder that Russia’s military force is causing civilians to suffer and testing Ukraine’s resilience after six months of a grinding war.
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GRAPHIC: (CNN/UKRAINIAN BORDER GUARD/MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES/UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES/TWITTER/UK PARLIAMENT TV/POOL, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY/RADIO FREE EUROPE/)
In Geneva on Thursday, the U.N.’s human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, decried the time since Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into the neighboring country as “unimaginably horrifying.” She called on Putin “to halt armed attacks against Ukraine.”
The train station strike took place after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that Moscow might attempt “something particularly cruel” this week as Ukraine marked both its 1991 declaration of independence from the Soviet Union and the six-month point of Russia’s invasion on Wednesday.
Tetyana Kvitnytska, deputy head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional health department, said the people wounded in the attack suffered a range of injuries.
“There are craniocerebral injuries, limb fractures, many patients with explosive and shrapnel injuries, burns,” she said. “People were in a difficult condition, both physically and psychologically.”
She added that three of the four children they are treating are in serious condition, with blast and shrapnel injuries, burns and fractures.
Following attacks in which civilians have died, the Russian government has repeatedly claimed that its forces only aimed at legitimate military targets. Hours before the train station attack, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu insisted the military was doing its best to spare civilians, even at the cost of slowing down its offensive in Ukraine.
GRAPHIC: For 6 months, Ukrainians have been living under siege. (Source: CNN/POOL/FROM TWITTER)
Meanwhile, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio visited the Kyiv suburb of Irpin on Thursday, expressing disbelief that “there are still those who still deny the facts of what happened here in Ukraine.”
Di Maio pledged that Italy will continue to support Ukraine as it defends itself from “the invaders, who are Russian,” adding that “this country is the border of Europe. It is not just defending itself.”
In Moscow on Thursday, Dmitry Medvedev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, said that Western hopes for a Ukrainian victory are futile and emphasized that Russia will press what it calls the “special military operation” home, leaving just two possible options.
“One is reaching all goals of the special military operation and Kyiv’s recognition of this outcome,” Medvedev said on his messaging app channel. “The second is a military coup in Ukraine followed by the recognition of results of the special operation.”
Follow all of AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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