The missile fell around 10:30 a.m., at a time when candidates for evacuation have been gathering for days by the hundreds: at least 50 people, including 5 children, were killed on Friday in a bombardment on the Kramatorsk station, in eastern Ukraine.
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At the end of the morning, a dead silence reigns over the pretty station with its red and white brick pediment, and its big steam locomotive from the 1930s installed on the lawn of the roundabout where taxis and families of travelers are usually parked.
A glance at the forecourt quickly gives an idea of the scale of the tragedy: long trails of blood, broken glass, abandoned luggage scattered everywhere.
Same sight a little further on, on the quay: a cane lies near a disgusting heap of shapeless flesh. There, a stuffed rabbit reddened with blood…
A leather handbag, intact, is placed close to a point of impact which pierced the concrete, a torn foot in his basketball shoe is still visible under a bench where the candidates at the start were waiting.
Amid the broken glass, a policeman picks up bloody telephones here and there in a box, one of which rings in the void.
What just happened is butchery. You can’t help but imagine the screams and horror of the crowd when the shrapnel fell.
The bodies, torn to pieces or riddled with shrapnel, were gathered in a corner of the forecourt, under the awnings of small shops where travelers usually buy a drink or peanuts before jumping on the train.
In this sinister alignment, there are more than thirty bodies, in body bags or under green plastic sheets.
To an aged hand already bleached by death, a boot of childish fur, baldness… we guess that the victims are of all ages.
The tent that usually housed and sheltered families from the cold or rain was blown away by the explosion, its khaki tarp cut open to collect and cover the remains.
Under the orders of a military doctor, soldiers and police are already painfully evacuating the bodies on board an army mortuary truck.
Some bags do not weigh, two men are enough to put them in the van, presumably a child or body parts.
Next to all these lifeless bodies lined up, a rescuer deposited a chihuahua surrounded by a blackened fabric, dazed, but still alive, the jaw holed by a splinter. The animal attracts all eyes. Many of the families took their pets with them in their exodus.
According to the governor of the region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, at least 50 people, including five children, were killed in this “strike by Russian occupation troops on the Kramatorsk station”.
A hundred were hospitalized, including in a military hospital.
“About fifty were in serious condition, many will die, because they have lost a lot of blood, and we lack blood here”, commented a soldier on the spot who participated in the reception of the wounded.
The director of Ukrainian railways Ukrzaliznytsia, Oleksandre Kamyshin, denounced a “deliberate strike”.
Thousands of people had been evacuated in recent days by train from the station in Kramatorsk, the capital of Donbass under Ukrainian control and which lives in fear of a major and imminent Russian offensive.
The Ukrainian authorities have not ceased in recent days to call on the population to evacuate the Donbass as soon as possible.
For the Russian army, however, which denounces a provocation, “the purpose of the strike orchestrated by the kyiv regime (…) was to prevent the departure of the population” from Kramatorsk.
“Where is my husband?”
About an hour before the strike, there were already dozens of civilians – elderly people, women and children – queuing outside the station.
“I’m looking for my husband, he was there, I can’t reach him,” sobbed a woman in a red turtleneck. Trembling, she hesitates to approach the bodies, her phone glued to her ear.
Another woman, Natalia, also traumatized, runs to “find her bag with her passport” in the middle of the abandoned belongings.
“There were a lot of people in and in front of the station. I was inside, I heard like a double explosion, I rushed against the wall to protect myself”.
She struggles to speak as she is out of breath, a policeman accompanies her, both walk quickly trying to avoid the streaks of blood on the ground.
“I then saw people bleeding into the station, bodies all over the ground, I don’t know if they were injured or dead. The soldiers rushed to tell us to evacuate the station, I left everything here”.
On the lawn of the forecourt in front of the station, a police tape prohibits getting too close to the remains of an imposing twisted khaki missile.
“It was a Tochka missile, a cluster bomb,” a police officer told AFP on the spot: “It exploded in several places, over an area the size of a football field.”
According to the blood on the ground and the testimonies collected on the spot, the victims were mowed down in several places in the station, on the adjoining main platform and its forecourt.
AFP counted at least four points of impact in the perimeter of the station, around which the victims were concentrated.
The AFP team was also able to collect on the spot pieces of steel in the shape of small finned rings, sharp as razors.
On the missile is tagged in Russian, in white paint, “For our children”.
A sentence that sounds like revenge, a recurring expression of pro-Russian separatists in reference to their children killed since the first Donbass war, which began in 2014.