At least 50 killed in rocket attack on fleeing refugees at Ukraine train station

Children among the dead as western leaders condemn the strike as an atrocity and a war crime

Children were among at least 50 people killed when a railway station packed with refugees fleeing a major Russian offensive expected in eastern Ukraine was hit by a rocket attack, the Kyiv government said.

The images of slumped bodies strewn among luggage and children’s toys by the Kramatorsk platforms fuelled fresh anger towards Moscow, with the attack condemned by western leaders as an atrocity and a war crime.

“These are systematic mass killings. The Kremlin is using a playbook from WWII and wants maximum civilian casualties,” Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas said as Taoiseach Micheál Martin visited the Baltic state yesterday.

Moscow denied responsibility for the attack at the station which was being used as an evacuation hub for Ukrainian civilians, who have been urged to leave ahead of an anticipated push for territory by Russia.


United Nations humanitarian agency Unicef said it was delivering health supplies nearby when the rockets hit and described the station as the “main route out for thousands of families” evacuating from the Donetsk region.

Médecins Sans Frontières had been helping evacuate patients from the region’s hospitals through the station and said it had helped sick people leave by train on Thursday “just in time”.

“We saw hundreds of people crowding the station, trying to leave,” said emergency co-ordinator Christopher Stokes.

‘Difficult’ weeks ahead

Mr Martin, who also visited Finland on Friday, said the availability of accommodation for Ukrainian refugees in Ireland was “stretched” and that there will be “difficult” weeks ahead. More than 12,000 people fleeing the war have been placed in short-term accommodation in the State.

A spokesman for Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman said that should the current rate of arrivals continue “the department will shortly be unable to source hotel or B&B accommodation”.

“This will mean that people will need to be accommodated in communal settings such as arenas and conference centres,” he said.

The EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen travelled to Kyiv to meet the Ukrainian government and visited the town of Bucha, where they were shown the aftermath of atrocities committed while the area was under Russian control.

Dr von der Leyen lit a candle in a local church and later handed Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy a questionnaire which she said would be the start of talks and a path to EU membership.

“I am here with you in Kyiv today to tell you that Europe is on your side,” she said. “We will accelerate this process as much as we can, while ensuring that all conditions are respected.”

The EU on Friday froze the assets of four Russian banks, banned Russian coal and other key imports and increased the sanctions list to 80 entities and 1,091 individuals, including the daughters of Vladimir Putin and oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a major shareholder of Co Limerick-based Aughinish Alumina through his company Rusal.


However, frustration was growing for some as it emerged that the commission did not as expected plan to propose banning oil imports at a meeting of foreign ministers on Monday due to the opposition of countries including Hungary.

“They say it’s appalling. They say they feel the pain. They condemn. But do they really?” asked Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko. “In 43 days EU paid Russia more than €35 billion for energy resources. That money went to Russian soldiers who kill Ukrainian children.”

Several countries have resisted calls for a full ban on gas and oil imports – a move backed by the Irish Government and a majority of the European Parliament – due to the economic impact, potential to cause political instability and difficulty of replacing the energy they produce for some member states.

In response to an appeal by Ukraine for weapons to bolster its army against the expected Russian offensive, Slovakia delivered the country an S-300 air defence system, and will receive a US Patriot missile system to shore up its own defence in turn.

Britain announced it was to send additional military equipment worth £100 million, including 800 anti-tank missiles, precision munitions, helmets, night-vision devices and body armour. However, Britain and Germany stopped short of agreeing to Kyiv’s request to send tanks, with Berlin saying they were needed for the country’s own defence.


In an address to Finland’s parliament on Friday, Mr Zelenskiy accused Russian troops of committing the kind of violence against civilians seen in Bucha “every day – from Kramatorsk to Mariupol, from Kharkiv to Kherson”.

The Finnish government reported a suspected violation of its airspace by a Russian state aircraft on Friday, followed by cyberattacks on its foreign and defence ministry websites, and other government services.

It comes as the Russian-bordering state aligns more closely with Nato and is debating requesting membership, something that Moscow has warned will have “consequences”.

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times