Владимир Зеленский поздравил украинцев с Днем Независимости

As Ukrainians marked the 31st anniversary of their country’s break from the Soviet Union with a somber parade in Kyiv on Wednesday, Russia launched a deadly missile attack on a train station in a town 300 miles southeast, killing at least 22 and wounding dozens more, officials said.

People stand next to a house destroyed by a Russian military strike in Chaplyne, Ukraine, on Wednesday.

People stand next to a house destroyed by a Russian military strike in Chaplyne, Ukraine, on Wednesday.© Reuters

The strike rocked Chaplyne, population 3,700, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had warned days earlier that Russia could be plotting “something particularly cruel” this week to spoil Ukraine’s Independence Day, the country’s highest national holiday. Details on the bombing were still coming into focus late that evening, but Zelensky and one of his deputies said four rockets hit the station, damaging a utility building and destroying rail cars.

“Chaplyne is our pain today,” Zelensky said in his evening address, promising retribution for Russia. “We will definitely make the occupiers bear responsibility for everything they have done. And we will certainly drive the invaders out of our land.”

Ukraine had been bracing for strikes in the capital and other major cities on Wednesday, which was also the six-month anniversary of Russia’s invasion. The contours of the conflict have changed drastically since Feb. 24, when Moscow’s troops stormed into the country expecting to depose the government in short order. Instead, the war has become a costly, grinding affair full of momentum swings as Kyiv has galvanized international support and attracted unprecedented weapons aid from Western countries.

And while 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 substantial — one of the deadliest single attacks on a civilian site in recent weeks. It also underscored Russia’s targeting of transportation infrastructure, a strategy ostensibly meant to disrupt weapons supply routes but that has also killed scores of bystanders.

The April shelling of a train station in the Donetsk oblast city of Kramatorsk left at least 50 dead and injured nearly 100, turning the transit hub into a scene of carnage and chaos.

News of the Chaplyne strikes surfaced shortly before Zelensky was scheduled to appear virtually at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council. Addressing the room full of diplomats, including representatives from Russia, Zelensky denounced the latest round of shelling.

“This is our life every day,” he said. “This is how Russia got prepared for this U.N. session.”

On Independence Day, Ukraine celebrates statehood Putin failed to destroy

Search and rescue crews were still sifting the rubble at the train station late Wednesday evening, and Zelensky said the death toll could rise. The president initially said 50 people were injured, but a later assessment from the deputy head of his office, Kirill Timoshenko, put the number around two dozen.

Timoshenko said an earlier strike on the town leveled a resident’s home, trapping a woman and two children beneath the wreckage. One of the children, an 11-year-old boy, was killed, he said.

The four rockets that landed at the train station hours later set fire to five passenger cars, Timoshenko said. Photographs posted to social media by the Ukrainian military showed trains charred and twisted, nearby automobiles blown apart, and buildings reduced to bricks and broken timber.

In Kyiv, authorities banned mass gatherings and the sounds of air raid sirens were heard throughout. Communities around Dnipro and in the eastern Donbas region reported strikes throughout the day.

But Zelensky remained defiant, pledging in his address late that evening that Ukrainians “will make our way to victory.”

Sammy Westfall and David Stern contributed to this report.

The Washington Post