At least 15 dead in Russian attack on train station: Zelensky

Russian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces launched a missile attack on a train station in central Ukraine on the country’s Independence Day, killing at least 15 people and injuring around 50 others.

In a video address to the UN Security Council on Wednesday, Zelensky said the attack set fire to four cars in Chaplin, a town of about 3,500 people in the Dnipropetrovsk region.

“Rescuers are working, but unfortunately the death toll could rise,” he said.

The president had warned that Russia “could try to do something particularly bad” to disrupt the celebrations as Ukraine marks the 31st anniversary of its independence. Wednesday also marked the point of the six-month war.

Residents of the capital, which has largely escaped in recent months, woke up to the sirens of air raids on Wednesday, but no immediate strikes followed.

Russian shelling was reported in the eastern, western and central regions of the country, with the deadliest attacks recorded at the railway station.

The president’s office also said an 11-year-old boy was killed by rocket fire in another part of the Dnipropetrovsk region.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, speaking at a meeting of his counterparts from a Russian-Chinese-dominated security organization on Wednesday, said Russia’s slow military action was due to what he described as an attempt to spare civilians.

“It definitely slows down the pace of the attack, but we do it on purpose,” he said.

He also criticized the United States and its allies for “continuing to inject weapons into Ukraine”, saying the aid prolongs the conflict and increases the number of casualties.

Russian forces repeatedly targeted civilian areas of the cities, including hospitals and the Mariupol theater where hundreds of people had taken refuge.

In Maidan Square in Kyiv, thousands of residents posed for photos next to the burning Russian tanks on display. Many revelers ignored the sirens and took to the streets to celebrate their nation’s independence.

Residents of Kyiv take pictures of destroyed Russian tanks as they celebrate Ukraine’s 31st Independence Day [Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

“I can’t sleep at night because of what I see and hear about what is happening in Ukraine,” the Associated Press news agency quoted a retiree who gave only her first name, Tetiana. It’s not a war. It is a destruction of the Ukrainian people.

In a message to the country, Zelensky welcomed Ukraine’s success in repelling Moscow’s forces since the invasion.

“On February 24, we were told: you have no chance,” he said. “On August 24, we say: Happy Independence Day to Ukraine!”

In a statement ahead of the attack on Chaplin’s train station, Zelensky warned of the possibility of “brutal strikes”. Thank you for scrupulously respecting the safety rules. Please respect the curfew. Look at the sirens.

US President Joe Biden said Independence Day would be bittersweet for many Ukrainians, as “thousands of people have been killed or injured, millions have been displaced from their homes and many have been victimized. Russian atrocities and attacks”.

“But six months of continuous attacks have strengthened Ukrainians’ pride in themselves, their country and in 31 years of independence,” he said.

Outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson marked the holiday with a visit to Kyiv – his third since the outbreak of war – and other European leaders used the occasion to pledge unwavering support for Ukraine.

In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz criticized the Kremlin for its “backward imperialism” and said Ukraine “will chase the shadow of war because it is strong and brave, because it has friends in Europe and all over the world”.