A Russian rocket strike on a Ukrainian train station has killed 22 people, Ukraine says, on the day marking six months since Moscow’s invasion began.
It says five of the victims of the attack in the eastern town of Chaplyne burnt to death in a vehicle. An 11-year-old boy also was killed.
President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the strike in the middle of a UN Security Council meeting.
Russia has made no comment. It denies targeting civilian infrastructure.
Mr Zelensky said he learned of the strike on Chaplyne, between Dnipro and Donetsk, as he was preparing to speak to the Security Council, adding: “This is how Russia prepared for the UN Security council meeting”.
“Four passenger carriages are on fire now… the number of fatalities could increase,” he said.
Ukraine has spent Wednesday marking its annual independence day and Mr Zelensky had previously said Russia might do something “cruel” to disrupt the celebrations.
Earlier he accused Moscow’s forces of turning the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant into a “war zone” that endangered the plant and the people of Europe and put the world “on the brink of radiation catastrophe”.
The UN Secretary General told the same meeting that the “senseless war” could push millions of people into extreme poverty, both in Ukraine and beyond.
Around the world, there were gatherings of supporters in the streets to mark Ukraine’s independence today. World leaders also rallied to support the embattled nation to mark the occasion.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared in Kyiv on an unannounced trip to show his country’s support, announcing £54m ($63.5m) in new military aid – a figure dwarfed by an announcement from US President Joe Biden of an extra $3bn (£2.5bn).
Messages of support arrived from across the globe: from Australia, Germany, Finland, Poland, Turkey and more. In the Vatican, Pope Francis called for “concrete steps” to end the war and avert the risk of a nuclear disaster at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant – Europe’s largest.
But in the streets of Kyiv, it was relatively quiet.
Ukraine had banned large gatherings and events over fears that Russia could target such civilian gatherings. It followed warning from the US for any of its citizens to leave ahead of the anniversary.
Some gathered anyway on Khreshchatyk Street to look at the array of captured Russian tanks and armoured vehicles put on display instead of the usual Ukrainian parade.
Between his political speeches, President Zelensky and his wife also attended a memorial ceremony for the fallen soldiers and civilians of the war, laying yellow and blue flowers at Kyiv’s Memory Wall of Fallen Defenders.
Earlier this week, Ukrainian officials gave their first update on military causalities in some time – saying that nearly 9,000 soldiers had been killed in the six-month conflict, though that number cannot be independently verified.
Despite the losses, the Ukrainian leader had started the day with a defiant national address, vowing to retake the whole of Ukraine, “without any concessions or compromises”.
“We don’t know these words – they were destroyed by missiles on 24 February,” he said.
“The enemy thought we would greet them with flowers and champagne, but received wreaths and Molotov cocktails instead.
In Russia, meanwhile, the day marking half a year since the start of the invasion passed quietly.
The BBC’s Will Vernon in Moscow says there has been almost no mention of the six months of Russia’s “special military operation” on television or from officials – possibly a sign that authorities do not want to emphasise the drawn-out campaign.
Russia had initially promised a short, decisive campaign – but Ukrainian resistance quickly pushed Russian forces away from the capital, and months later Russia redeployed its forces to concentrate on the eastern breakaway provinces where it already enjoyed support. In recent weeks, the front lines have hardly moved.
One significant even in Russia Wednesday was the arrest of Yevgeny Roizman – one of the last remaining significant opposition politicians in the country.
The former mayor of Yekaterinburg was arrested on charges of “discrediting the Russian army”, which since the invasion of Ukraine began can carry a prison sentence of up to five years.
As he was led away, he said he was being arrested for saying out loud “one phrase, ‘the invasion of Ukraine'”.
Thousands of people have faced the courts over such charges, with a large majority found guilty, human rights lawyers say.
One human rights group, OVD-Info, says more than 16,000 people have been detained for protesting against the invasion – offences which include streets protests, social media posts, or simply referring to Russia’s “special military operation” as a war or an invasion.
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