A man hugs a woman after Russian shelling at the railway station in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Friday, April 8, 2022. Image Credit: AP

Lviv: At least 39 people were killed and 87 wounded in a missile strike on Friday on a railway station in east Ukraine that was packed with women, children and elderly trying to flee fighting, Ukrainian authorities said.

Officials said many of the wounded had lost limbs and were being operated on after the strike in the city of Kramatorsk, which President Volodymr Zelenskiy said was a deliberate attack on civilians using a Tochka U short-range ballistic missile.

“Lacking the strength and courage to stand up to us on the battlefield, they are cynically destroying the civilian population,” Zelenskiy said in a statement. “This is an evil that has no limits. And if it is not punished, it will never stop.” European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, on Twitter, and British defence minister Ben Wallace, during a visit to Romania, both denounced the attack.

Zelenskiy later said in a video address to Finland’s parliament that no Ukrainian troops had been at the station at the time of the attack.

The Russian defence ministry was quoted by RIA news agency as saying the missile said to have struck the station was used only by Ukraine’s military and that Russia’s armed forces did not have any targets assigned in Kramatorsk on Friday.

Donetsk region governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said Russian forces had fired a Tochka missile containing cluster munitions, but did not share what evidence he had of this.

Russia has previously denied using cluster munitions in Ukraine.

Banned by the United Nations under a 2008 international convention that Russia is not a party to, cluster munitions are made up of a hollow shell that explodes in mid-air, dispersing dozens or even hundreds of smaller “bomblets” over a wide area.

Ukrainian servicemen stand next to a fragment of a Tochka-U missile after Russian shelling at the railway station in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Friday, April 8, 2022. Image Credit: AP

4,000 at the station

Kramatorsk Mayor Oleksander Honcharenko estimated that about 4,000 people were at the station at the time of the attack. At least four of those killed were children, he said.

“Some people have lost a leg, others an arm. They are now receiving medical assistance. The hospitals are carrying out about 40 operations simultaneously,” the mayor said in an online briefing.

MSF said a service of east-to-west medical evacuations of Ukrainian patients by train set up this month was now under threat.

“It is a big question whether we will be able to go back to evacuate more people,” the medical charity’s emergency coordinator, Christopher Stokes, said.

Governor Kyrylenko published a photograph online showing several bodies on the ground beside piles of suitcases and other luggage. At least one man lay in a pool of blood. Armed police wearing flak jackets walked beside the corpses.

Another photo showed rescue services tackling what appeared to be a fire, with a pall of grey smoke rising into the air.

Russia denies targeting civilians in what it calls its “special military operation” aimed at demilitarising and “denazifying” Ukraine. The Kremlin’s position is rejected by Ukraine and the West as a pretext for an unprovoked invasion.