The death toll from a Russian rocket attack continues to mount with 25 people confirmed dead Thursday following a strike on a civilian train station in eastern Ukraine as the nation observed its Independence Day.
The victims include an 11-year-old who was found under ruble and a six-year-old who was killed in a car fire after the vehicle was hit near the station, the deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said in an update on the Wednesday strike.
Another 31 people were injured in the attack in Chaplyne – a town of some 3,500 people in the Dnipropetrovsk region which borders Dontesk.
The day marked 31 years since Ukraine separated from the Soviet Union, but celebrations were light on the ground as mass groupings and public events were barred out of concern for people’s safety.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned in the lead up to anniversary – which also marked the six-month milestone since Russian invaded on Feb. 24 – that Moscow might try something “something particularly nasty” and “cruel” on the national day.
Officials warned that Russia may launch a significant attack of some kind, whether cyber or militarily, though Moscow’s aggression appears to have been limited to the Chaplyne strike.
Zelenksyy addressed the attack in his nightly update and said search and rescue teams would continue to scope the scene of the attack.
“Chaplyne is our pain today,” he said, adding that Russia will “bear responsibility for everything they have done.”
“There are no such bombs that can erase freedom, and there will never be such missiles that can break the will of the people who believe in themselves,” he added.
Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu attempted to explain Moscow’s inability to push its offensive forward in Ukraine as an attempt to spare civilian life.
Shoigu claimed Russia was conducting strikes with precision weapons against Ukrainian military targets, and “everything is done to avoid civilian casualties.”
“Undoubtedly, it slows down the pace of the offensive, but we do it deliberately,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.