UK accuses Russia of aiming at Ukrainian civilians

Russian troops are focusing offensive, including use of cruise missiles, on the eastern Donbas region

Chaplain Dmitri talks to residents in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv. AP

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Russian forces are aiming at civilians, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said on Saturday, a day after a missile attack on a train station crowded with women, children and the elderly killed at least 52 people.

The EU believes Russia has carried out war crimes in Ukraine — allegations Russia has denied — after its leaders visited Bucha on the same day the Kramatorsk train station strike happened.

Russia was focusing its offensive, including cruise missiles launched by naval forces, on the eastern Donbas region, the British defence ministry said in its daily briefing.

It said it expected air attacks would increase in the south and east as Russia seeks to establish a land bridge between Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, and the Donbas.

“Russia continues to hit Ukrainian non-combatants, such as those killed in yesterday’s rocket strike on Kramatorsk railway station in eastern Ukraine,” the ministry said.

“Russian ambitions to establish a land corridor between Crimea and the Donbas continue to be thwarted by Ukrainian resistance,” it added.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Saturday that Russian forces appeared to have committed war crimes by aiming at civilians in Ukraine, but she said lawyers must investigate the alleged incidents.

Leaving Ukraine after a visit, she said she had seen with her own eyes on Friday the destruction in the town of Bucha near Kyiv.

“My instinct says: If this is not a war crime, what is a war crime, but I am a medical doctor by training and lawyers have to investigate carefully,” Ms von der Leyen said.

“I saw the photos, [Ukrainian prime minister] Denys Shmyhal showed me: Killing people as they are walking by. We could also see with our own eyes, that the destruction in the city is targeted into the civilian lives. Residential buildings are no military target,” she said, referring to Bucha.

In Washington, a senior defence official said the US was “not buying the denial by the Russians that they weren't responsible”, and believed Russian forces had fired a short-range ballistic missile in the train station attack.

The Russian defence ministry was quoted by RIA news agency as saying the missiles reported to have struck the station were used only by Ukraine's military and that Russia's armed forces had no targets assigned in Kramatorsk on Friday.

Russia has denied aiming at civilians since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion.

Updated: April 09, 2022, 11:58 AM
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