Ukraine is again collecting dead civilians and body parts after the Russians launched a strike on a busy train station where thousands of people were trying to flee the onslaught of invaders.
Ukraine said at least 50 people were killed and 100 injured in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, by the impact of the missile which reportedly had the Russian words ‘For children’ written on its side.
Regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said the weapon was a Tochka U short-range ballistic missile containing cluster munitions which explode in mid-air, spraying small lethal bomblets over a wider area.
The use of cluster munitions is banned under a 2008 convention. Russia has not signed it but has previously denied using such armaments in Ukraine.
Ukraine says the civilians waiting for trains were mostly women, children and the elderly trying to escape the Russians.
The attack sparked worldwide condemnation as a “crime against humanity”, with US President Joe Biden decrying the “horrific atrocity” while the UK labelled it another war crime.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky posted video and photos to Facebook of the blood-splattered scene which showed bodies strewn across platforms and families’ luggage scattered over the ground.
Mr Zelensky blamed the attack on the “Russian non-humans”. Russia has again denied it had any military operations planned for that area.
“Not having the strength and courage to confront us on the battlefield, they are cynically destroying the civilian population,” Mr Zelensky wrote.
“This is evil that knows no bounds. And if it is not punished it will never stop.”
It’s the second time in nearly a week that Russian troops have shocked the world with alleged attacks on innocent people.
Forensics teams have been documenting the body count in the town of Bucha and on Friday began exhuming a mass grave in the town.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venedyktovae said so far 165 bodies had been found in the Kyiv suburb.
The grave’s discovery last week galvanised the West into toughening sanctions against Russia and speeding up arms deliveries to Ukraine.
Across the broader Kyiv region Ms Venedyktovae said 650 bodies had been found, 40 of them children.
Meanwhile the European Union has begun the process of accelerating Ukraine’s membership of the economic bloc and promised it would take weeks instead of years.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen visited Kyiv and met with Mr Zelensky, handing him a questionnaire which is one of the steps towards gaining EU candidate status.
Ms von der Leyen said Ukraine was heading towards a stronger future as a member of the EU while Russia would suffer.
“Russia will descend into economic, financial and technological decay, while Ukraine is marching towards the European future, this is what I see,” she said.
Mr Zelensky said the questionnaire would be completed in a week.
Ukrainian officials say Russia’s military is regrouping after withdrawing eastwards from the zone around Kyiv.
Ukrainian officials have in recent days urged civilians to flee eastern areas ahead of an expected attempt by Russian forces to gain full control of Donetsk and neighbouring Luhansk, both partly held by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.
The Kremlin said on Friday the “special operation” could end in the “foreseeable future” with its aims being achieved with work by the Russian military and peace negotiators.
Russian business chief ‘shocked’ at Bucha
Russian metals company Rusal’s chairman of the board has called for an investigation into events in Bucha.
Rusal chairman Bernard Zonneveld, an independent non-executive director, did not address who was responsible or even directly say anyone was killed there.
“We believe that this crime should be thoroughly investigated,” he said in a statement this week.
“We support an objective and impartial investigation of this crime and call for severe punishment for the perpetrators.”
Mr Zonneveld’s statement stood out because Russian companies have generally remained silent about the war amid rigorous suppression of opposition by Russian authorities.
Mr Zonneveld said the company was “interested in putting an end to the conflict in this European country as soon as possible” and that reports from Bucha “shocked us.”
Putin’s trust rating soars
The proportion of Russians who trust President Vladimir Putin has risen to 81.6 per cent from 67.2 per cent before he ordered troops into Ukraine.
Mr Putin’s soaring approval rating is according to a survey by the state-run pollster VTsIOM published on Friday.
VTsIOM said 78.9 per cent of respondents in its latest survey said they approved of Putin’s actions, compared to 64.3 per cent in the last poll before the start of what Russia calls its “special military operation”.
The proportion who disapproved of his actions fell to 12.9 per cent from 24.4 per cent.
VTsIOM’s numbers were similar to those in a survey published on March 30 by the independent Levada Centre, in which the proportion of Russians saying they approved of Putin’s actions rose to 83 per cent from 71 per cent in February.
Mr Putin made a rare public appearance when he joined thousands of people at a funeral for leading Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky in Moscow.
Zhirinovsky, the faction leader of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, died on Wednesday at the age of 75 after being hospitalised for more than two months due to COVID-19.
He was known for his fiery tirades against the West and for his speeches, often punctuated with screams, his face bright red.
A power struggle has broken out over who will replace him at the top of the LDPR, one of five parties loyal to the Kremlin in the State Duma.