Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Live: Dozens of civilians fleeing eastern Ukraine killed in rocket attack on train station

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EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen pledged on Friday to offer Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a speedier start to Ukraine’s bid to become a member of the European Union. Follow our live blog for all the latest developments.  Read our live blog below to see how the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time [GMT+2]. 

10:03pm: EU publishes sanctions against Putin’s two daughtersThe EU blacklisted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters and more than 200 other people as part of its latest sanctions package over Moscow’s war in Ukraine, according to an official list published late Friday.

Those on the list, which additionally included 18 companies, face asset seizures and travel bans in the 27-nation European Union.

The United States and Britain had already sanctioned Putin’s two daughters: Maria Vorontsova and Katerina (or Ekaterina) Tikhonova, born in 1985 and 1986 respectively.

9:52pm: Russia military shift not expected to hinder security aid to Ukraine, Pentagon saysThe Pentagon does not believe that the Russian military’s shift to focus on Ukraine’s south and east will hinder “in any appreciable way” the transshipment of security assistance by the United States to Ukraine, spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday.

9:51pm: EU says resuming diplomatic presence in KyivThe European Union will resume its diplomatic presence in Ukrainian capital Kyiv, after temporarily moving it to Poland after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the bloc said on Friday.

Matti Maasikas, head of the EU delegation in Ukraine, joined top EU officials visiting the country on Friday and will remain in Kyiv to reopen the delegation and assess conditions for staff to return, the bloc’s diplomatic service said.

Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell said the move would enhance the bloc’s interactions with the Ukrainian government and help support Ukrainian citizens.

8:14pm: Moscow shutting down Amnesty, Human Rights Watch in RussiaRussia said on Friday it was shutting down the local offices of a number of international organisations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The organisations have been taken off Russia’s registry of international organisations and foreign NGOs due to “violations of the current legislation of the Russian Federation,” the justice ministry said in a statement.

8:08pm: Russia looks to recruit more than 60,000 reservists, US official saysThe United States has indications that Russia has started mobilising some reservists and could be looking to recruit more than 60,000 personnel, a senior US defence official said on Friday.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was not clear how successful Russia would be in that effort and where they would go.

8:07pm: Russia faces ‘decay’, Ukraine has ‘European future’, EU’s Von der Leyen saysRussia faces “decay” because of ever more stringent sanctions while Ukraine has a “European future”, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday during a visit to Kyiv.

“Russia will descend in economic, financial and technological decay while Ukraine is marching towards a European future,” von der Leyen said at a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

7:21pm: EU’s Von der Leyen promises Ukraine expedited membership processEU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged on Friday to offer Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a speedier start to Ukraine’s bid to become a member of the European Union.

Handing Zelensky a questionnaire which will form a starting point for the EU to decide on membership for Kyiv, she said: “It will not as usual be a matter of years to form this opinion but I think a matter of weeks.” Zelensky said he would come back with answers in a week.

6:15pm: Borussia Dortmund to host Dynamo Kiev in charity matchBundesliga club Borussia Dortmund announced Friday plans to host a charity football match against Dynamo Kiev on April 26 to help those affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We stand by the Ukrainians and have already brought many tonnes of relief supplies to the country. Now we also want to raise money,” said CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke.

The proceeds of the benefit match will be donated to a humanitarian organisation to ensure that “Ukrainians in need are helped directly”, the club said in a statement.

6:11pm: US to place one Patriot missile system in SlovakiaThe United States will put one Patriot missile defence system, along with US troops to operate it, in Slovakia, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Friday, after Bratislava agreed to donate its S-300 air defence system to Ukraine.

Austin said in a statement that the system will arrive in the coming days.

5:52pm: Evacuations in Donetsk region will continue despite rail attack, governor saysPeople will still be able to evacuate by rail from Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region despite a deadly missile strike on a railway station in the city of Kramatorsk on Friday, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on national television.

5:51pm: Czech Republic ship tanks, rocket launchers, artillery to UkraineThe Czech Republic has delivered tanks, multiple rocket launchers, howitzers and infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine among military shipments that have reached hundreds of millions of dollars and will continue, two Czech defence sources said.

Ukraine has repeatedly called on the West to urgently supply more weapons, especially heavy equipment, as Russian forces regroup in the country’s east for a new offensive after withdrawing from around the capital Kyiv and other regions.

5:50pm: Mitsubishi says it has stopped vehicle production in RussiaJapanese car manufacturer Mitsubishi Motors said on Friday it had stopped production at its Russian plant in Kaluga, which it owns together with Stellantis, until further notice, joining other major carmakers that have halted their operations in Russia.

5:49pm: Odesa imposes weekend curfew over ‘missile strike threat’Ukraine’s southern city of Odesa imposed a weekend-long curfew on Friday over a “missile strike threat” from Russia, after the shelling of a train station that killed dozens in the eastern city of Kramatorsk.

“A curfew will be introduced in Odessa and Odessa region from 9pm on April 9 to 6pm April 11,” Odesa’s regional military administration said on Facebook. The decision was taken “given events in Kramatorsk” and “threat of a missile strike on Odesa”, it said.

5:48pm: Turkey voices ‘sadness’ after strike on Ukraine evacuation hubTurkey on Friday expressed “great sadness” over a rocket attack on a train station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, killing fifty people including five children.

“It has been learnt with great sadness that dozens of people waiting to be evacuated died and were injured” as a result of the strike, the foreign ministry said in a statement. “This tragic event has once again demonstrated the importance and urgency of establishing humanitarian corridors in order to ensure the safe evacuation of civilians,” it added.

5:46pm: Russia’s denial of attacks ‘becoming a pattern’Russia’s denial following the rocket strike that killed at least 50 people in an evacuation hub in eastern Ukraine is “clearly part of what is becoming a pattern in this war, and it has been a pattern in previous wars in which Russia was involved, whether we’re talking about Syria or Chechnya or wherever – a pattern of denial; blanket, categorical denial, of ‘not us, not here,” said FRANCE 24’s International Affairs Commentator Douglas Herbert.


5:44pm: Germany could end Russian oil imports this year, Scholz saysGermany might be able to end Russian oil imports this year, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Friday, adding that it would take longer for Europe’s biggest economy to wean itself off Russian gas.

Speaking during a news conference with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London, Scholz said Germany would continue to deliver weapons to Ukraine to help it fend off Russia’s invasion.

5:01pm: UK’s Johnson says sending Ukraine more anti-aircraft, anti-tank missilesBritain is sending Ukraine more “high-grade military equipment” including Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles and 800 anti-tank missiles after an “unconscionable” attack on a train station, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday.

The attack at Kramatorsk “shows the depths to which (Vladimir) Putin’s once-vaunted army has sunk”, Johnson told reporters alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who said the Russian strike was “atrocious”.

4:38pm: EU’s von der Leyen visits Bucha mass graveEU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday visited a mass grave in Bucha, a town outside Kyiv where Russian forces are accused by Ukraine’s allies of carrying out atrocities against civilians.

An AFP journalist reported that von der Leyen was in the town north of the capital as part of a trip to shore up support for Ukraine alongside the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

4:26pm: Macron condemns ‘abominable’ strike on Ukraine train stationPresident Emmanuel Macron on Friday denounced an “abominable” airstrike on a train station in eastern Ukraine, saying France would “support the investigations so that justice is done.”

“Ukrainian civilians fleeing to escape the worst. Their weapons? Prams, toy dolls, baggage. This morning at the station in Kramatorsk, families who were leaving experienced horror. Deaths by the dozens, hundreds injured. Abominable,” Macron said in a tweet.

4:09pm: Death toll from missile attack in eastern Ukraine rises to 50, governor saysAt least 50 people were killed, including five children, in a missile strike on a rail station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Friday.

In an online post updating an earlier preliminary death toll of 39, Kyrylenko said the dead included victims who had died of their wounds after being taken to hospital or medical centres.

4:09pm: Finland to expel two Russian diplomatsFinland on Friday said it will expel two Russian diplomats over the war in Ukraine, following a wave of similar moves across Europe.

Finland shares a 1,340-kilometre (830-mile) land border with Russia, and is currently considering whether to join NATO. “The measure is in line with those taken by other EU member states,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

4:08pm: Russia expels 45 Polish diplomatsMoscow is expelling 45 Polish diplomats, Russia’s foreign ministry said Friday, in a tit-for-tat move after Warsaw last month expelled the same number of Russian diplomats for espionage.

The ministry said it was declaring “persona non grata” 45 employees of the Polish embassy in Russia and of Polish consulates in the cities of Irkutsk, Kaliningrad and Saint Petersburg “as a response to Poland’s unfriendly actions”.

3:49pm: Ukrainian football club Shakhtar to start peace-themed tourUkrainian football club Shakhtar Donetsk will play a series of charity games on a government-backed “Global Tour for Peace” that will raise money for the country’s military in the war against Russia.

The depleted squad has gathered in Turkey to prepare for Saturday’s opening match against Greek league leader Olympiakos. The games will also raise money for Ukrainian refugees displaced by the war.

“Football diplomacy will help us involve millions of fans around the world in assisting Ukraine, which is really important,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Friday. “By this charity tour, we will continue attracting the world’s attention to Russian aggression against Ukraine and raise more funds for the Ukrainian army.”

3:34pm: Experts set to travel to Ukraine to identify the war’s deadAn international organisation formed to identify the dead and missing from the 1990s Balkan conflicts is preparing to send a team of forensics experts to Ukraine as the death toll mounts more than six weeks into the war caused by Russia’s invasion.

Authorities in Kyiv have reached out to the International Commission on Missing Persons to help put names to bodies that might otherwise remain anonymous amid the fog of war.

A team made up of a forensic pathologist, forensic archeologist and an expert on collecting DNA samples from bodies and from families to cross-match, is expected to travel to Ukraine early next week, Director-General Kathryne Bomberger told AP on Friday.

They will help identify the dead, but also document how they died – information that can feed into war crimes investigations in the future. The organisation’s laboratory in an office block on a busy street in The Hague will build a central database cataloging evidence and the identities of the missing.

3:21pm: Russia complains to Turkey over drones sales to UkraineRussia has complained to Turkey over its sale of Bayraktar TB2 armed drones to Ukraine, a high level Turkish bureaucrat said on Friday, but added the sales were by a private Turkish company and not state-to-state deals.

“Russians are upset and from time to time they are complaining about the drone sales. They used to complain and they are complaining right now,” the bureaucrat said at a meeting with foreign media. “But we have already given the answer […] that these are private companies and these drone purchases had been done before the war as well.”

3:11pm: Lithuania plans military purchases from US, Germany amid Ukraine warLithuania said on Friday it plans to buy military equipment for over 1 billion euros ($1.09 billion) each from the United States and Germany, for deliveries until 2027.

The Lithuanian defence ministry said the purchases were triggered by the war in Ukraine and will include Switchblade and other drones, Javelin anti-tank systems, radars and armoured vehicles from the US. It said it will soon launch a purchase of 10-ton trucks from Germany.

3:08pm: Russian soldiers looting ‘everything that they can get their hands on'”Apart from rape and murder of Ukrainian citizens by Russian soldiers, one of the other things that the Russians are accused of is looting indiscriminately in the cities and towns they’ve taken over — taking washing machines, televisions, computers, scooters; everything that they can get their hands on, often calling their families back in Russia to find out what they would like them to steal,” FRANCE 24 Chief International Affairs Editor Robert Parsons reported.

“And what is happening here is a display that has been put on by private citizens here in Lviv to show the sort of things that are being taken […] and to try to persuade other people in other countries to do the same sort of thing outside Russian embassies and consulates, to shame the Russians into stopping doing this sort of thing.”


2:56pm: Russia declares British think tank Chatham House ‘undesirable’Russia said Friday that it will add the UK think tank Chatham House to a blacklist of “undesirable” international organisations, calling it a threat to national security. Russia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office said in a statement that it had taken the decision “to declare the activities of the international NGO undesirable on Russian soil”.

Chatham House is the informal name for The Royal Institute of International Affairs, a respected, more than century-old research institute in London that focuses on international affairs and is widely cited by media.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba have recently taken part in events organised by Chatham House.

2:55pm: Still ‘very dangerous in Kharkiv'”It certainly is very dangerous here in Kharkiv, still,” FRANCE 24’s Catherine Norris-Trent reports. “In the last few minutes we’ve heard a series of very loud explosions and seen plumes of smoke rising up, coming from the north of the town, it seems. We’ve seen for ourselves the smoke rising from buildings this morning — and early this morning there was the noise of an air strike on [the] town; so both Grad missiles falling on the city and air strikes as well. And that seems to have intensified in the past few days.”


2:34 pm: Zelensky urges ‘Molotov cocktail’ sanctions on RussiaUkrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky Friday asked the West to impose “Molotov cocktail” sanctions on Moscow, including a ban on Russian gas, and appealed for more weapons as he addressed Finnish MPs.

Scolding “those who are making us wait, wait for the things that we need badly, wait for the means of protecting our lives,” Zelensky called on Western leaders to impose a “sanctions cocktail” against Russia that “would be remembered just like Molotov cocktails”.

Molotov cocktails are improvised incendiary devices popularised by the Finns in their war against the Soviet Union during World War II.

2:32 pm: Moscow accuses Ukraine of staging Kramatorsk attackRussia on Friday accused Kyiv of carrying out a deadly attack on a railway station in the city of Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine that claimed dozens of lives.

“The purpose of the Kyiv regime’s attack on the railway station in Kramatorsk was to disrupt the mass exit of residents from the city in order to use them as a ‘human shield’ to defend the positions of Ukraine’s armed forces,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

The ministry claimed that the attack was carried out by Ukraine’s forces from the town of Dobropillya, some 45 kilometres (27 miles) southwest of Kramatorsk.

2:31 pm: Lavrov says Belarus should become security guarantor for UkraineRussian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Belarus should provide security guarantees for Ukraine in the future, once Kiev affirms its neutral status.

“At the request of the Ukrainian side, its neutral, non-bloc, non-nuclear status should be accompanied by security guarantees,” Lavrov said.

1:19 pm: 39 killed, including four children, in train station strikeA strike on a train station in eastern Ukraine on Friday killed 39 people, including four children, Ukraine’s SBU security service said.

“Russian fascists bombed Kramatorsk station, 39 killed including four children,” SBU spokesman Artem Dekhtyarenko said on Facebook.

1:04 pm: No Ukrainian troops were at station hit by rockets, Zelensky saysUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said no Ukrainian troops were at a railway station in east Ukraine that was hit by rockets on Friday.

Zelensky told Finnish parliament that more than 30 civilians had been killed in the attack and added: “Russian forces hit the train station in Kramatorsk, (firing) on an ordinary train station, on ordinary people, there were no soldiers there.”

Russia’s defence ministry denied Russian forces carried out the rocket strike.

12:15 pm: Kremlin says Russia’s operation in Ukraine could end ‘in foreseeable future’The Kremlin said on Friday that what it calls Russia’s “special operation” in Ukraine could end in the “foreseeable future” since its aims were being achieved and work was being carried out by both the Russian military and Russian peace negotiators.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov also said Moscow understood that some countries that had tried to adopt a balanced position had been subjected to pressure to vote on Thursday to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.

11:58 am: Ukraine prepares for a Russian assault on the DonbasRussia is currently redeploying its troops to eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainians are anticipating the heaviest assault yet. The situation is static for the moment but it is expected that the Russians will have deployed sufficiently to launch an intense attack in about a week. FRANCE 24’s Rob Parson reports. 


11:29 am: Zelensky says Russia displays ‘evil with no limits’ in railway attackUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described a Russian rocket attack on a train station in eastern Ukraine, which killed at least 35 people, as “evil with no limits”.

“They are cynically destroying the civilian population. This is an evil that has no limits. And if it is not punished, it will never stop,” Zelensky said in a statement on social media after the strikes on a hub that has been used by many civilians in recent days to flee an anticipated Russian advance.

11:13 am: EU adopts new sanctions against Russia including coal import banThe European Union on Friday formally adopted its fifth package of sanctions against Russia, including bans on the import of coal, wood, chemicals and other products.

The measures also prevent many Russian vessels and trucks from accessing the EU, further crippling trade, and will ban all transactions with four Russian banks, including VTB.

10:41 am: At least 30 evacuees killed in Russian rocket strike on train station, rail company saysAt least 30 people were killed and over 100 were wounded in a Russian rocket strike on a railway station in eastern Ukraine on Friday as civilians tried to evacuate to safer parts of the country, the state railway company said.

It said two Russian rockets had struck a station in the city of Kramatorsk, which is being used for the evacuation of civilians from areas under bombardment by Russian forces.

“Two rockets hit Kramatorsk railway station,” Ukrainian Railways said in a statement. It later added: “According to operational data, more than 30 people were killed and more than 100 were wounded in the rocket attack on Kramatorsk railway station.”

Reuters could not verify the information. Russia did not immediately comment on the reports of the attack and the casualty toll. Moscow has denied targeting civilians since invading Ukraine on February 24.

9:33 am: Ukrainian forces control Sumy region bordering RussiaUkrainian forces are in control of the entire northeast region of Sumy along the border with Russia, its governor said Friday, warning residents against returning while it was being cleared of mines.

“The area is free of orcs,” Sumy regional governor Dmytro Zhyvytsky said on social media, referring to invading Russian troops. “The region is not safe. There are many areas that have been mined and are still not cleared,” he said.

9:23 am: Ukrainian negotiator says Bucha deaths affect mood at talks with RussiaUkraine and Russia are “constantly” holding peace talks online but the mood has been affected by events including the deaths of civilians in the town of Bucha, Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said in televised comments on Friday.

Ukrainian officials accuse Russian troops of carrying out extra-judicial killings in Bucha, outside Kyiv. Moscow denies targeting civilians in Ukraine and has said the deaths in Bucha were a “monstrous forgery” staged by the West to discredit it.

9:09 am: Ukrainian defences holding in Luhansk regionThe governor of Ukraine’s eastern region of Luhansk said on Friday Russia was accumulating forces in eastern Ukraine but had not broken through Ukrainian defences.

8:50 am: Russia’s Polymetal says auditor Deloitte resignsRussian precious metals producer Polymetal International Plc said on Friday its auditor Deloitte LLP has resigned, as the auditing firm decided to stop its operations in Russia and Belarus in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis.

Polymetal said Deloitte took the decision as the firm would not be able to carry out an audit of a company whose majority of assets and operations are in Russia.

For many Russians, the biggest impact of western sanctions so far has been the rise in prices. Our colleagues at France 3 report from Zvenigorod, west of Moscow:


7:50 am: Ukrainian President Zelensky to meet EU’s von der Leyen on FridayIn a show of support, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen traveled to Kyiv on Friday with the bloc’s diplomatic chief Josep Borrell for talks with Zelensky.

The prospects for peace talks, meanwhile, appeared to fade further as Russia accused Ukraine of shifting its position from earlier discussions in Istanbul.

Ukrainian residential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak warned Moscow to “lower the degree of hostility” if it was interested in peace.

FRANCE 24’s correspondent Dave Keating, reports from Brussels. 


6:27 am: UK says Russian forces have fully withdrawn from northern UkraineRussian forces have now fully withdrawn from northern Ukraine to Belarus and Russia, British military intelligence said on Friday.

At least some of these Russian forces will be transferred to East Ukraine to fight in the Donbas, the Ministry of Defence said on Twitter. The forces will require replenishment before being deployed further east, with any mass redeployment from the north likely to take at least a week, the ministry added.

The ministry said Russian shelling of cities in the east and south continues and Russian forces have advanced further south from the city of Izium, which remains under their control.

6:12 am: Volunteers aid evacuation effort in eastern UkraineSeverodonetsk, in eastern Ukraine, is the city furthest to the country’s east that is still under Ukrainian control. Our colleagues at France 2 met Alexei Paveliev, a former taxi driver who is volunteering to evacuate civilians as the city comes under heavy fire from Russian forces:


4:32 am: Pentagon says Putin has given up on taking Kyiv but ‘significant battle’ still ahead for southeastern UkraineUS Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has given up on conquering Kyiv after his forces were soundly beaten back by the Ukrainian military.

“Putin thought that he could very rapidly take over the country of Ukraine, very rapidly capture this capital city. He was wrong,” Austin told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee in Congress.

“I think Putin has given up on his efforts to capture the capital city and is now focused on the south and east of the country,” said Austin.

But the path of the overall war, six weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, remains uncertain, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, told the same hearing.

For Ukraine to “win” the fight, it needs to remain a free and independent nation, with its recognised territory intact, he said.

“That’s going to be very difficult. That’s going to be a long slog,” Milley said.

“The first part of it has probably been successfully waged,” he said of the war that began on February 24.

“But there is a significant battle yet ahead down in the south-east, down around the Donbas region where the Russians intend to mass forces and continue their assault,” he said.

“So I think it’s an open question right now, how this ends.”

2:12 am: Lviv sees new refugee influx as Ukraine warns civilians to flee DonbasUkrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk urged civilians in eastern Ukraine to evacuate to safer regions before it was too late, after Moscow announced plans to concentrate its forces in the east.

As a result, aid organisations in the western city of Lviv are welcoming a new wave of refugees. FRANCE 24 Chief International Affairs Editor Robert Parsons reports on the ground:


Lviv 2022 © France 24

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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