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Ukraine seeks tough reply after missile kills 52 at station hosting evacuees

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he wants a tough global response to Russia after its forces fired a missile at a crowded train station, killing at least 52 people.

Zelenskyy’s voice rose in anger during his nightly address late Friday, when he said the strike on the Kramatorsk train station, where 4,000 people were trying to flee a looming Russian offensive in the east, amounted to another war crime.

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Russia denied it was responsible for the strike. Among those killed were five children, and dozens of people were severely injured.

Photos taken after the attack showed corpses covered with tarpaulins, and the remnants of a rocket painted with the words “For the children” in Russian. The Russian phrasing seemed to suggest the missile was sent to avenge the loss or subjugation of children, although its exact meaning remained unclear.

The strike seemed to shock world leaders.

“There are almost no words for it,” European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters during a visit to Ukraine. “The cynical behavior (by Russia) has almost no benchmark anymore.”

The attack came as workers elsewhere in the country unearthed bodies from a mass grave in Bucha, a town near Kyiv, where graphic evidence of dozens of killings emerged following the withdrawal of Russian forces.

“Like the massacres in Bucha, like many other Russian war crimes, the missile attack on Kramatorsk should be one of the charges at the tribunal that must be held,” Zelenskyy said.

He said efforts would be taken “to establish every minute of who did what, who gave what orders, where the missile came from, who transported it, who gave the command and how this strike was agreed to.”

After failing to take Kyiv in the face of stiff resistance, Russian forces have now set their sights on the eastern Donbas region, the mostly Russian-speaking, industrial area where Moscow-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years and control some places.

Although the train station is in Ukrainian government-controlled territory in the Donbas, Russia accused Ukraine of carrying out the attack. So did the region’s Moscow-backed separatists, who work closely with Russian troops.

Western experts, however, dismissed Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov’s assertion that Russian forces “do not use” that type of missile. A Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence, said Russia’s forces have used the missile — and that given the strike’s location and impact, it was likely Russia’s.

Justin Bronk, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, added that only Russia would have reason to target railway infrastructure in the Donbas, as it is critical for the Ukrainian military’s efforts to reinforce its units.

Bronk pointed to other occasions when Russian authorities have tried to deflect blame by claiming their forces no longer use an older weapon “to kind of muddy the waters and try and create doubt.” He suggested Russia specifically chose the missile type because Ukraine also possesses them.

British Defense Minister Ben Wallace denounced the attack as a war crime, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called it “completely unacceptable.”

Ukrainian authorities and Western officials have repeatedly accused Russian forces of atrocities in the war that began with a February 24 invasion.

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IAEA loses transmission from Ukraine’s Russian-held nuclear plant surveillance system

The UN atomic watchdog said on Wednesday it had again lost its connection to its surveillance systems keeping track of nuclear material at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Europe’s largest, which the watchdog wants to inspect.
“The fact that our remote safeguards data transmission is down again –- for the second time in the past month –- only adds to the urgency to dispatch this mission (to Zaporizhzhia),” the
International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.

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The connection was lost on Saturday “due to a disruption of the facility’s communication systems,” it added.

Read more: UN watchdog ‘concerned’ about Ukraine nuclear plant access

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Anti-coup protesters in Sudan shot dead: Report

Four protesters were killed in Sudan on Thursday, medics said, as large crowds took to the streets despite heavy security and a communications blackout to rally against the military leadership that seized power eight months ago.

In central Khartoum, security forces fired tear gas and water cannon as they tried to prevent swelling crowds from marching towards the presidential palace, witnesses said.

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They estimated the crowds in Khartoum and its twin cities of Omdurman and Bahri to be in the tens of thousands. In Omdurman witnesses reported tear gas and gunfire as security forces prevented protesters from crossing into Khartoum.

The protests mark the third anniversary of huge demonstrations during the uprising that overthrew long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir and led to a power-sharing arrangement between civilian groups and the military.

Last October, the military led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan toppled the transitional government, triggering rallies that have called on the army to quit politics.

Some protesters carried banners calling for justice for those killed in previous demonstrations. Others chanted, “Burhan, Burhan, back to the barracks and hand over your companies,” a reference to the Sudanese military’s economic holdings.

Earlier, protesters barricaded some of the capital’s main thoroughfares with stones and burning tires.

It was the first time in months of protests against the October coup that internet and phone services had been cut. After the military takeover, extended internet blackouts were imposed in an apparent effort to hamper the protest movement.

Staff at Sudan’s two private sector telecoms companies, speaking on condition of anonymity, said authorities had ordered them to shut down the internet once again on Thursday.

Bridges shut

Phone calls within Sudan were also cut and security forces closed bridges over the Nile linking Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri – another step typically taken on big protest days to limit the movement of marchers.

In recent days there have been daily neighborhood protests in the build-up to Thursday’s rallies.

On Wednesday, medics aligned with the protest movement said security forces shot dead a child during protests in Bahri. Thursday’s four deaths, all in Omdurman, brought the number of protesters killed since the coup to 107.

There was no immediate comment from Sudanese authorities.

The United Nations envoy in Sudan, Volker Perthes, called this week on authorities to abide by a pledge to protect the right of peaceful assembly. “Violence against protesters will not be tolerated,” he said.

Military leaders said they dissolved the government in October because of political paralysis. As a result, however, international financial support agreed with the transitional government was frozen and an economic crisis has deepened.

Burhan said on Wednesday the armed forces were looking forward to the day when an elected government could take over, but this could only be done through consensus or elections, not protests.

Mediation efforts led by the United Nations and the African

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UN: Almost 16 million people in Ukraine need humanitarian aid

As Russia presses on with its invasion of Ukraine, some 16 million people inside the country need humanitarian aid, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Ukraine said Thursday.

“Almost 16 million people in Ukraine today need humanitarian assistance: water food, health services,” Osnat Lubrani told a press briefing.

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Six million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes for other parts of the country since the war started, though around 5 million have since returned, she said.

But “many know that they might be forced to flee again,” she added.

Over 5.3 million more Ukrainians have fled abroad, Lubrani said.

She said the UN tally of casualties since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 was likely much higher.

“The number we have of almost 5,000 civilians killed and more than 5,000 injured is just a fraction of the frightening reality,” she said.

She also said it was “extremely difficult if not… impossible” for humanitarian groups to access areas that are no longer under Kyiv’s control.

Lubrani called on Russia and Ukraine “to do more to protect the people of this country and to make our work possible.”

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