A blue stroller sat unattended on the blood-smeared platform surrounded by abandoned luggage. Phones rang in abandoned bags.
Relatives feverishly searched for news of missing family members who were supposed to be on the train.
The Tochka-U missile, which unloaded its payload of cluster bombs around 10.30am yesterday, turned the crowded Kramatorsk train station into a scene of devastation.
Dasha, an 18-year-old local, said: “I was there and I saw everything.
“A rocket flew in the sky, fragments fell to the ground, hitting the cars and people. Cars exploded and people died.
“We heard the whistle of a rocket. Everything went very quickly. Everyone started running. It was scary, there was a lot of panic.
“There were dead and wounded on the ground. It was disgusting to see.”
The submunitions – a Tochka carries about 50 of them – landed on either side of the station building, between passengers already on the platforms and those waiting to enter from the parking lot.
Oleksiy Honcharenko, the mayor of Kramatorsk, told Ukrainian television that surgeons at local hospitals are overwhelmed when treating serious injuries, including “many missing arms and legs”. Surgeons simultaneously attempted to treat 30 or 40 victims.
“40 people were killed instantly and about 100 injured,” said Vyacheslav Zaporozhets, a volunteer from Lazar, a Ukrainian medical charity, from a hospital in Kramatorsk. Several could not be saved.
By the afternoon, the death toll had risen to 50, including 12 wounded who died after reaching hospitals. At least five children were among the dead.
There was no immediate news about the baby who was riding in the blue buggy, or his parents.
Deliberate attacks on civilians are a war crime. Kramatorsk Train Station is a civilian facility that serves intercity trains that run across the country.
It could not be immediately confirmed whether a legitimate military target was in the area at the time of the attack. But Ukrainian authorities didn’t have time to speculate that the slaughter might be accidental collateral damage.
Authorities expect a major Russian offensive to turn the city into a battlefield in the coming weeks.
For the past few days, the station has been packed with civilians who are following calls to evacuate while there is still time.
Mr Honcharenko said around 4,000 people were huddled on the platform and parking lot at the time of yesterday’s attack.
It would be impossible for Russian reconnaissance not to be aware of this, and Ukrainian officials insisted the choice of target was deliberate.
“Since they lack the strength and courage to fight with us on the battlefield, they cynically destroy the civilian population. This is an evil that knows no bounds. And if it’s not punished, it will never stop,” he said Volodymyr ZelenskyyPresident of Ukraine.
“The ‘Rashists’ [‘Russian fascists’] knew very well what they were aiming for and what they wanted: they wanted to sow panic and fear, they wanted to take away as many civilians as possible,” said Pavlo Kirilenko, the head of the Donetsk region.
The shell of the rocket was later found on a patch of grass a few dozen meters away. It bore a message daubed in white paint in large capital letters ‘for the children’.
The Russian soldiers who painted it either thought they wanted to emphasize the imagined justice of their cause – or were making a purposely sick joke.
Instead, they provided an unintended summary of the all-out war that the Russian government is now clearly waging against Ukrainian civilians.
From central Kharkiv to the Mariupol maternity hospital and Kiev suburbs like Bucha and Hostemel, Russia’s war effort has shown a disregard for civilian life that now seems deliberate rather than careless.
In the early days of the war, a cluster munitions missile hit a blood bank in Kharkiv – a crucial advantage for a besieged city. Last month, Russian airstrikes hit a maternity hospital in Mariupol. Then they hit a theater housing hundreds of civilians in the same town – ignoring the “CHILDREN” warning written outside on the tarmac in letters large enough for satellites to see.
The bodies of civilian travelers lying among their luggage on a Donbass morning yesterday brought back memories of previous war crimes.
In the summer of 2014, a Russian anti-aircraft missile shot down a Malaysian airline Boeing 777, scattering mutilated bodies and suitcases across fields 100 km southeast of the Kramatorsk tragedy.
Then, as now, the Kremlin’s response was a clumsy and transparent denial, followed by blaming Ukraine.
At an earlier daily press briefing, the Russian Defense Ministry made no mention of the missile attack on Kramatorsk, but did cite three attacks with “high-precision air-launched missiles” on stations in the neighboring cities of Pokrovsk, Slavyansk and Barvinkove.
Major General Igor Konashenkov, the Russian military spokesman, said the attacks “destroyed arms and military equipment of Ukrainian military reserves that arrived in Donbass.”
But within an hour it had issued a rejection. No strikes were carried out or planned against Kramatorsk, it said. Only the Ukrainian Armed Forces operate these missiles, it said.
In fact, Russia has been using Tochka-U missiles in Ukraine since at least early March. The booster units left behind after cluster attacks were seen on battlefields from Mariupol in the south to Chernihiv in the north.
And as with the MH17 tragedy, pro-Russian propaganda and social media initially hailed the attacks as a successful attack on the Ukrainian military.
Below a video showing plumes of smoke and debris strewn across the streets, Russian journalist Dmitry Steshin, linked to the Kremlin, wrote: “Ten minutes ago this happened at the Kramatorsk train station. A group of militants from the Armed Forces of Ukraine worked here.”
The post was later deleted, but not before being preserved for posterity through reposts and screenshots.
Another pro-Russian Telegram account issued a veiled warning the night before. In a post Thursday at 9:09 p.m., the anonymous author said people should avoid evacuating from Donetsk region via train stations. He repeated the warning at 9:15 a.m., just as the rockets were hitting the train stations.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the attack “shows the depth to which Putin’s vaunted army has sunk”.
“It is a war crime to indiscriminately attack civilians and Russia’s crimes in Ukraine will not go unnoticed or go unpunished,” he told a news conference.
The White House condemned the “terrifying and devastating images” of the attack.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who was in Kyiv with EU chief executive Ursula von der Leyen, condemned on Twitter “another attempt to close escape routes for those fleeing this unjustified war.”
The strike precedes what threatens to be one of the most violent battles of the war to date.
Russia has publicly stated that it intends to focus on “liberating” the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which are claimed as sovereign territory by two Moscow-curated separatist “republics” established during a previous invasion in 2014 .
It has strengthened its units in the region and is apparently trying to encircle the Ukrainian troops concentrated along the old line of contact with the separatist “republics”.
By encircling and annihilating these soldiers and “liberating” the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Putin may hope to force Mr. Zelenskyy to the negotiating table and wring out a punitive peace deal that he could present in Moscow as a victory.
But if the operation fails, Putin will be forced to choose between pursuing a costly war with no clear path to victory or ordering a humiliating retreat.
Western officials believe Putin is pressuring his generals to achieve success ahead of Russia’s May 9 holiday, giving them just a month to complete the encirclement.
For the Ukrainians, the stakes are even higher. A defeat would mean the loss of the ablest part of his army and a considerable part of the territory.
A Russian spearhead pushing south toward Slavyansk and Kramatorsk has made slow but steady progress over the past week, but the exact line of control is unclear. Russia yesterday claimed it finally captured the besieged port city of Mariupol in the southern Donetsk region.
The Ukrainian authorities have urged residents of the eastern regions of Luhansk, Donetsk and Kharkiv to leave the region as a matter of urgency.
The systematic shelling of railways in the Donbass over the past two days appears to be aimed at preventing Ukraine from moving in reinforcements and blocking evacuation efforts, making the cities’ defenses more difficult.
Mr Kirilenko, the head of the Donetsk region’s military-civilian administration, insisted evacuation efforts would continue but that security would be checked and individual cities informed of the new plans.
“The enemy has surveillance and surveillance tools,” he said. “They clearly understood that this is a city, this is a train station, there are people there. They only do it to prevent people from leaving our region.”
Those who left on earlier trains are the lucky ones. But as so many Ukrainian refugees have already experienced, it’s a painful form of security.
Valeriya Novikova, 23, who left from the same station just a few days earlier, said: “We left by train as there was a possibility of escape at the time.
“We waited until the end, hoping that suddenly everything would work out and the war would end.
“Now I am unemployed and homeless. I had everything and now I have nothing but a suitcase of stuff.”
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/for-the-children-daubed-on-missile-that-slaughtered-young-and-old-41536005.html Russian attack on Ukrainian train station: ‘For the Children’ smeared on a rocket that slaughtered young and old