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Evacuations of civilians, Zelensky ready to negotiate with Moscow

“We are ready to fight and at the same time seek diplomatic ways to stop this war,” he assured during a press conference with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, visiting kyiv and Boutcha, a small town nearby. of the capital which has become a symbol of the atrocities of the Russian invasion.

Mr Zelensky called the attack on Kramatorsk station a “war crime”. “Everyone involved will be held accountable,” he said in a video message overnight. The missile strike killed 52 people on Friday, including 5 children, according to a latest report from local authorities.

“Firm response” expected

“World powers have already condemned Russia’s attack on Kramatorsk. We expect a strong global response to this war crime,” he continued. US President Joe Biden has denounced a “horrible atrocity” committed by Moscow and French diplomacy a “crime against humanity”.

Moscow denied being responsible for the strike, saying it did not have the type of missile that would have been used, before denouncing a Ukrainian “provocation”.

A senior US Department of Defense official dismissed the arguments of Russian authorities. “I note that initially they reported a successful strike and only retracted after reports of civilian casualties,” he said.

The Russian Ministry of Defense had indeed announced earlier on Friday that the Russian army had destroyed with high-precision missiles “weapons and other military equipment in the stations of Pokrovsk, Sloviansk and Barvinkove”, localities located not far from Kramatorsk, the “capital” of the part of Donbass still under Ukrainian control.

Evacuations by road

The missile fell around 10:30 a.m., at a time when candidates for evacuation have been gathering for days by the hundreds in the city’s train station to flee the Donbass, now a priority objective for the Russian army. AFP journalists saw at least 30 bodies in body bags or under tarpaulins.

The sidewalks were stained with blood, abandoned suitcases, stuffed animals and food littered the platforms. On the forecourt, the remains of a missile were still visible: one could read in Russian “For our children”, a recurring expression of pro-Russian separatists in reference to their children killed since the start of the first Donbass war in 2014.

On Saturday, evacuations of civilians continued by road. Mini-buses and vans came to pick up dozens of survivors of the bombing who spent the night in a Protestant church in the city center, not far from the station, AFP journalists noted.

“Despicable attack”

Arriving in Ukraine on Friday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen denounced a “despicable attack”. She went with the head of EU diplomacy Josep Borrell to Boutcha, a town where dozens of corpses wearing civilian clothes, some with their hands tied behind their backs, were discovered in early April after the departure of the forces. Russians.

“My instinct tells me: if this is not a war crime, what is a war crime?” said Ms von der Leyen. “We saw with our own eyes that the destruction in this town was aimed at civilians.”

Later, on a visit to Warsaw, Mrs von der Leyen announced that the international collection “Stand up for Ukraine” had raised 10.1 billion euros. “The world has finally pledged 9.1 billion euros (…) In addition, the Commission, together with the EBRD, is adding another billion for the displaced people in Ukraine. It’s fantastic”, said – she congratulated.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also traveled to kyiv to meet Volodymyr Zelensky. According to a spokesman for Downing Street, this surprise visit aims to “show solidarity with the Ukrainian people”. Discussions must also focus on new “military and financial” aid.

Subject: Donbass

After withdrawing its troops from the kyiv region and northern Ukraine, Russia has made the total conquest of Donbass its priority. President Vladimir Putin wants to achieve this goal before the May 9 military parade marking the end of World War II, observers note.

In anticipation of a massive offensive, local authorities in eastern Ukraine are scrambling to evacuate civilians. In Lozova, 100 km west of Kramatorsk, about 15,000 people have so far left the town and 50,000 are still there, said Friday evening the head of the regional military administration, Oleg Sinegubov.

Departures are organized by train and by car, he said, while mentioning fighting taking place “nearby”.

Threatened in turn by strikes, the large port of Odessa (south), on the Black Sea, will experience a curfew from Saturday evening to Monday morning.

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