“Chaplyne is our pain today,” Zelensky said in his evening speech, promising retaliation for Russia. “We will certainly make sure that the occupiers take responsibility for everything they have done. And we will certainly drive the invaders out of our land.
Ukraine had braced for strikes in the capital and other major cities on Wednesday, which also marked the sixth anniversary of the Russian invasion. The contours of the conflict have changed dramatically since February 24, when troops from Moscow burst into the country hoping to overthrow the government in a short time. Instead, the war has become a costly and overwhelming affair, full of twists and turns, as Kyiv has galvanized international support and attracted unprecedented arms aid from Western countries.
And although the assault on Chaplyne, in a rural part of the Dnipropetrovsk region, was a disaster on a smaller scale than those initial fears, the death toll was considerable – one of the deadliest attacks on a civilian site in recent weeks. He also pointed to Russia’s targeting of transportation infrastructure, a strategy apparently intended to disrupt arms supply routes but which also killed dozens of bystanders.
The April bombing of a train station in the town of Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast, left at least 50 dead and nearly 100 injured, turning the transit center into a a scene of carnage and chaos.
News of the Chaplyne strikes surfaced shortly before Zelensky was due to appear virtually at a meeting of the UN Security Council. Addressing the room full of diplomats, including representatives of Russia, Zelensky denounced the latest round of bombings.
“It’s our everyday life,” he said. “This is how Russia prepared for this UN session.”
Search and rescue teams were still sifting through the station’s rubble late Wednesday night, and Zelensky said the death toll could rise. The president initially said 50 people were injured, but a later assessment by his office’s deputy chief, Kirill Timoshenko, put the number at around two dozen.
Tymoshenko said an earlier strike on the town leveled a resident’s home, trapping a woman and two children under the wreckage. One of the children, an 11-year-old boy, was killed, he said.
The four rockets that landed at the station hours later set fire to five passenger cars, Timoshenko said. Photographs job Social media by the Ukrainian military showed charred and twisted trains, nearby automobiles blown up and buildings reduced to broken bricks and wood.
In Kyiv, authorities banned mass gatherings and the sound of air raid sirens was heard everywhere. Communities around Dnipro and in the eastern Donbass region reported strikes throughout the day.
But Zelensky remained defiant, promising in his late-night speech that the Ukrainians “will be heading for victory.”
Sammy Westfall and David Stern contributed to this report.