Russian missile hits a train station in Kramatorsk, Ukrainian government says
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Local officials in eastern Ukraine say a Russian missile strike on a train station has left dozens dead or injured. Russia denies responsibility, calling the claims a provocation by Ukraine. NPR's Nathan Rott is following this story from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and joins us now. And a quick word of warning before we start - some listeners may find the news upsetting. Hi, Nate.
NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Hey, Leila.
FADEL: So what else can you tell us about this strike?
ROTT: Yeah, so we know that the missile strike happened in the city of Kramatorsk, a city in eastern Ukraine, at about 10:30 in the morning local time. The videos that are being circulated by Ukrainian officials and journalists and civilians all show the aftermath of this alleged missile strike, and they're very disturbing. There are multiple people in civilian clothes who all appear to be deceased. They're laying next to luggage and bags. There's a stroller in at least one photo. And we know that this is a place where lots of civilians have been coming to in recent days to try and board trains bound for safer parts of the country. Here's Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration, talking through an interpreter earlier today.
PAVLO KYRYLENKO: (Through interpreter) That's what I - well, I've always been emphasizing - that they will try to create panic, and they will hit the local population, local civilians. They monitor the radio stations. They know where to hit, where to strike.
ROTT: So obviously Kyrylenko believes that this was a deliberately targeted strike at the train station. He also said cluster munitions were used. We have not been able to confirm that.
FADEL: All those people killed at a place where they were trying to escape to somewhere safer. You know, this war has been going on for over a month. Why are so many people leaving the area now?
ROTT: Well, it seems like there's this kind of broader repositioning happening with the war. I wouldn't say there's a lull in the war because, I mean, as we know, there's still a lot of fighting happening in the east and the south. But Russian troops have withdrawn from around where I am in Kyiv and the northern part of the country.
ROTT: They now say they're focused on the eastern part of Ukraine. And while, you know, Ukrainian military officials here have been really reluctant to say where exactly and what exactly their troops are doing, we have talked to soldiers in Kyiv over the last few days who have said that many of the troops here are repositioning to the east. So there is a belief that the fighting is really going to intensify in eastern Ukraine in the coming days and weeks, and Ukrainian officials and local governors have been urging people that are still in those regions to leave if they have not already.
FADEL: Do we know how many civilians are still there?
ROTT: We really don't. I mean, we know that roughly 10 million people, pretty much a quarter of the entire Ukrainian population, has already been displaced in this conflict. I mean, you met the huge waves of people...
ROTT: ...That were fleeing from these regions when you were over here, Leila, you know?
ROTT: And I actually talked to a family from Kramatorsk, where this train station was hit, when I was in Lviv a little more than a week ago, and they told me that they left then because Ukrainian soldiers had come to their house and said, if you have the ability to leave, you should because it's going to make it easier for us to fight the Russians back when they come. So I think there's been an understanding for a while that this is where the fight is going and that it could be very ugly.
FADEL: And all of this comes just a day after NATO foreign ministers met in Brussels, vowing more military aid for Ukraine and more sanctions on Russia. But Ukrainian officials are warning if they don't get more soon, many more civilians will die, right?
ROTT: Yeah, so the word from Ukraine's top defense officials is that this is going to get worse. That's why they're strongly telling people to leave areas while they still have a chance. And that's why they're pushing NATO and the U.S. to get more involved and to give them heavier weapons - fighter jets, tanks, anti-aircraft systems. That has not happened, really, to the degree that Ukrainian officials would like to see, but I think they're hoping that with all the images we've been seeing recently, that might change.
FADEL: NPR's Nathan Rott in Kyiv, thank you for all your reporting, and stay safe.
ROTT: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.