Russia acknowledges 'significant losses' during invasion

Russian missile strikes packed Ukrainian train station, killing dozens

Attack comes as authorities urge people in eastern Ukraine to flee ahead of looming advance on Donbas; more gruesome discoveries predicted as Russians retreat from Kyiv region

Emergency personnel walk among injured people lying on the platform in the aftermath of a rocket attack on the railway station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, in the Donbass region on April 8, 2022. (Anatolii STEPANOV / AFP)
Emergency personnel walk among injured people lying on the platform in the aftermath of a rocket attack on the railway station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, in the Donbass region on April 8, 2022. (Anatolii STEPANOV / AFP)

A Russian rocket ripped through a Ukrainian train station packed with people in eastern Donetsk, killing dozens fleeing fighting Friday, a sign of intense violence to come as Russia regroups, even as Ukrainian battlefield successes forced the Kremlin to acknowledge significant losses and hint at an end to its campaign.

At least 30 were killed in the attack on the station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, which was being used for civilian evacuations, Ukrainian officials said.

Regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said thousands of people were at the train station at the time of the strike, preparing to head to safer regions.

AFP journalists on the scene saw at least 20 bodies of people grouped and lying under plastic sheets next to the station.

Blood was pooling on the ground and packed bags were strewn outside the building in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

The remains of a large rocket with the words “for our children” in Russian were lying adjacent to the main building.

The remains of a rocket with the Russian lettering ‘for our children’ painted on it is seen on the ground in the aftermath of a rocket attack on the railway station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, in the Donbass region on April 8, 2022. (Anatolii STEPANOV / AFP)

The head of Ukraine’s railway company, Alexander Kamyshin, said that two rockets hit the station.

“This is a deliberate attack on the passenger infrastructure of the railway and the residents of Kramatorsk,” Kamyshin said.

The strike was a sign of intense fighting looming over the Donbas, a mostly Russian-speaking, industrial region in eastern Ukraine where Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years.

Ukrainian servicemen check for signs of life among casualties lying on the platform in the aftermath of a rocket attack on the railway station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, in the Donbass region on April 8, 2022. (Anatolii STEPANOV / AFP)

Ukrainian officials told residents this week to leave as soon as possible, warning that Russian forces who failed to take Kyiv were regrouping for an attack on the east.

Russia denied the attack and said the rocket was Ukrainian.

“We emphasize that Tochka-U tactical missiles, fragments of which were found near the Kramatorsk railway station and published by eyewitnesses, are used only by the Ukrainian armed forces,” the Defense Ministry said.

Kramatorsk was hit by Russian strikes earlier this week but had otherwise largely been spared the destruction witnessed by other east Ukraine cities since Russia’s invasion.

In the Kyiv area, Ukrainian leaders are predicting more gruesome discoveries will be made in reclaimed cities and towns as retreating Russian forces leave behind crushed buildings, streets strewn with destroyed cars and mounting civilian casualties.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the horrors of Bucha, a town north of Kyiv where bodies of people killed at close range were found on streets and in basements, already had surfaced in a worse way in Borodianka, another settlement outside the capital.

Torched cars are pictured outside a train station in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, that was being used for civilian evacuations, after it was hit by a rocket attack killing at least 35 people, on April 8, 2022. (FADEL SENNA / AFP)

“And what will happen when the world learns the whole truth about what the Russian troops did in Mariupol?” Zelensky said late Thursday, referring to the besieged southern port that has seen some of the greatest suffering since Russia invaded Ukraine. “There on every street is what the world saw in Bucha and other towns in the Kyiv region after the departure of the Russian troops. The same cruelty. The same terrible crimes.”

A Kremlin spokesman acknowledged that Russia has suffered major troop causalities during its six-week military operation in Ukraine.

“Yes, we have significant losses of troops and it is a huge tragedy for us,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Sky News.

Peskov also hinted the fighting might be over “in the foreseeable future,” telling Sky that Russian troops were “doing their best to bring an end to that operation.”

Men stand next to a destroyed tank in Chernihiv, Ukraine, Thursday, April 7, 2022. (AP/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Spurred by reports that Russian forces committed atrocities in areas surrounding the capital, NATO nations agreed to increase their supply of arms after Ukraine’s foreign minister pleaded for weapons from the alliance and other sympathetic countries to help face down an expected offensive in the east.

Bucha Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk said investigators found at least three sites of mass shootings of civilians during the Russian occupation. Most victims died from gunshots, not from shelling, he said, and some corpses with their hands tied were “dumped like firewood” into mass graves, including one at a children’s camp.

Fedoruk said 320 civilians were confirmed dead as of Wednesday, but he expected more as bodies are found in the city that was home to 50,000 people. Only 3,700 remain, he said.

In his nightly address, Zelensky said Bucha’s horrors may be only the beginning. In the northern city of Borodianka, just 30 kilometers (20 miles) northwest of Bucha, he warned of even more casualties, saying “there it is much more horrible.”

Field engineers of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine conduct mine clearing among destroyed vehicles on a street of Bucha on April 5, 2022, as Ukrainian officials say over 400 civilian bodies have been recovered from the wider Kyiv region, many of which were buried in mass graves (Genya SAVILOV / AFP)

Ukrainian and several Western leaders have blamed the massacres on Moscow’s troops. The weekly magazine Der Spiegel reported Germany’s foreign intelligence agency intercepted radio messages among Russian soldiers discussing killings of civilians. Russia has falsely claimed that the scenes in Bucha were staged.

On Thursday, a day after Russian forces began shelling their village in the southern Mykolaiv region, Sergei Dubovienko, 52, drove north in his small blue Lada with his wife and mother-in-law to Bashtanka, where they sought shelter in a church.

“They started destroying the houses and everything” in Pavlo-Marianovka, he said. “Then the tanks appeared from the forest. We thought that in the morning there would be shelling again, so I decided to leave.”

Hundreds of people have fled villages in the Mykolaiv and Kherson regions that are either under attack or occupied by Russian forces.

Marina Morozova and her husband fled from Kherson, the first major city to fall to the Russians.

Ukrainian soldiers walk next to heavily damaged residential buildings in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

“They are waiting for a big battle. We saw shells that did not explode. It was horrifying,” she said.

Morozova, 69, said only Russian television and radio was available. The Russians handed out humanitarian aid, she said, and filmed the distribution.

Anxious to keep moving away from Russian troops, the couple and others boarded a van that would take them west. Some will try to leave the country, while others will remain in quieter parts of Ukraine.

The United Nations estimates the war has displaced at least 6.5 million people within the country.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said that more than 4.3 million, half of them children, have left Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion on Feb. 24 and sparked Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II.

The International Organization for Migration estimates more than 12 million people are stranded in areas of Ukraine under attack.

Families hold bags as they wait to board a train at Kramatorsk central station as they flee the eastern city of Kramatorsk, in the Donbass region on April 5, 2022. The station was struck by a Russian missile on April 8, 2022. (FADEL SENNA / AFP)

The United Nations’ humanitarian chief told The Associated Press on Thursday that he’s “not optimistic” about securing a ceasefire after meeting with officials in Kyiv and in Moscow this week, given the lack of trust between the sides. He spoke hours after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused Ukraine of backtracking on proposals it had made over Crimea and Ukraine’s military status.

Two top European Union officials and the prime minister of Slovakia traveled to Kyiv on Friday, looking to shore up the EU’s support for Ukraine. Prime Minister Eduard Heger said he, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell have trade and humanitarian aid proposals for Zelensky and his government.

Part of that, Heger says is “to offer options for transporting grains, including wheat.” Ukraine is a major world wheat supplier and Russia’s war on Ukraine is creating shortages, notably in the Middle East.

Ukrainian servicemen study a Sweden shoulder-launched weapon system Carl Gustaf M4 during a training session on the Kharkiv outskirts, Ukraine, Thursday, April 7, 2022. (AP/Andrew Marienko)

Western nations have stepped up sanctions, and the Group of Seven major world powers warned that they will keep adding measures until Russian troops leave Ukraine.

The US Congress voted Thursday to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and ban the importation of its oil, while the EU approved other new steps, including an embargo on coal imports. The UN General Assembly, meanwhile, voted to suspend Russia from the world organization’s leading human rights body.

US President Joe Biden said the UN vote demonstrated how “Putin’s war has made Russia an international pariah.” He called the images coming from Bucha “horrifying.”

“The signs of people being raped, tortured, executed — in some cases having their bodies desecrated — are an outrage to our common humanity,” Biden said.

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