A UKRAINIAN soldier stands inside a crater near a house, which was destroyed during a Russian military strike in Dnipropetrovsk, on Wednesday.—Reuters
A UKRAINIAN soldier stands inside a crater near a house, which was destroyed during a Russian military strike in Dnipropetrovsk, on Wednesday.—Reuters

KYIV: A Russian attack killed 25 civilians when missiles struck a railway station and a residential area in eastern Ukraine, officials in the capital Kyiv said, as the nation marked its Independence Day under heavy shelling.

The European Union condemned Russia’s deadly bombardment and warned those “responsible for Russian rocket terror will be held accountable”. “The EU strongly condemns another heinous attack by Russia on civilians,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted.

The death toll from the Russian attack rose from an initially reported 22 after three more bodies were retrieved from the rubble in the town of Chaplyne as rescue operations there ended, Ukrainian presidential aide Kyrylo Tymoshenko said on Thursday.

The Vyshgorod region, directly north of Kyiv, also came under rocket attack, but there were no casualties reported, regional official Olexiy Kuleba said on the Telegram channel.

EU warns those ‘responsible for rocket terror will be held accountable’; Biden calls Zelensky, asks Russia to agree on demilitarised zone around N-plant

The missile strikes and artillery shelling of frontline towns, such as Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Nikopol and Dnipro, followed President Volodymyr Zelensky’s warnings of the risk of “repugnant Russian provocations” ahead of Wednesday’s 31st anniversary of independence from Moscow-dominated Soviet rule.

Aug 24 also marked six months since Russian forces invaded Ukr­aine, starting Europe’s most devastating conflict since World War Two.

Commenting on the attack, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter: “Russia’s missile strike on a train station full of civilians in Ukraine fits a pattern of atrocities. We will continue, together with partners from around the world, to stand with Ukraine and seek accountability for Russian officials.”

As rescue operations wrapped up in Chaplyne, residents of this small town, located some 145km west of Russian-occupied Donetsk, grieved for their loved ones amid the rubble of their wrecked homes.

The Russian defence ministry had no immediate comment on the attack. Speaking in Uzbekistan, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu repeated Moscow’s line it had deliberately slowed what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine to avoid civilian casualties.

Demilitarised zone

Russia should agree to a demilitarised zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine and allow international officials to assess its safety, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Thursday.

The plant, Europe’s largest, was seized by Russia in March and remains close to the frontline. It has come under repeated fire in recent weeks, raising fears of a nuclear disaster, with both Russia and Ukraine accusing each other of shelling it.

“Russia should agree to the demilitarised zone around the plant and agree to allow an International Atomic Energy Agency visit as soon as possible to check on the safety and security of the system,” Jean-Pierre said.

She said the plant had come up in a call on Thursday between U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Both Ukrainian and Russian officials have said the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA could visit the plant soon.

In the call, Biden reinforced US support for Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia six months ago in what Ukraine and the West described as an unprovoked war of aggression.

Moscow says it is carrying out a “special military operation” to “demilitarise” and “denazify” its smaller neighbour.

“I know it is a bittersweet anniversary, but I made it clear that the United States would continue to support Ukraine and its people as they fight to defend their sovereignty,” Biden said on Twitter.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2022

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