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Ukraine says a Russian missile hit a train station, killing at least 50


The Ukrainian government says a Russian missile hit a train station in the city of Kramatorsk this morning, killing at least 50 people. This as officials in cities across the eastern part of the country are telling people to evacuate ahead of an expected Russian offensive. NPR's Eyder Peralta is in the capital of Kyiv and joins us now. Hey, Eyder.


DETROW: Eyder, the headline was just horrifying. Tell us more about this missile strike.

PERALTA: Yeah. So as you said, the Ukrainian government says that a missile hit a train station in the city of Kramatorsk. And that happened at about 10 a.m. this morning. And they said that it happened when thousands of people were trying to evacuate. And the images that have emerged from there - they're tough to look at. They show smoke rising from the station and the bodies - and bodies in civilian clothes lying motionless in pools of blood. And around them are what appear to be abandoned luggage and bags. The head of the military administration in that region said that 50 people had died. And among them were five children and that about a hundred people are being treated in the hospital. At a press briefing, Pavlo Kyrylenko, who was speaking through an interpreter, didn't mince words. He blamed the Russians. Let's listen.


PAVLO KYRYLENKO: (Through interpreter) They will try to create panic, and they will hit the local population, local civilians. They monitor the railway stations. They know where to hit, where to strike. Initially, they would only hit railways as such.

PERALTA: And what he's saying is that at first, Russians used to hit empty buildings, and now they're waiting for full train stations to use what he described as cluster bombs. And those are munitions that are banned by international law because the damage they cause is so indiscriminate. And it's worth noting that Russia has called these allegations absolutely untrue.

DETROW: The train station was full, and it was people trying to head west. Eyder, the war has been going on since late February. Give us the context again of why so many people are trying to flee at this point in time from the east.

PERALTA: Yeah, I mean, look. So where I am, where I saw you yesterday in Kyiv, things are calming down a bit. Stores are opening. People are in the streets. Russian troops have pulled out of the northern part of this region. But the Ukrainian military is saying that Russia is not done with this war. They believe that the troops that withdrew from Kyiv are now in Belarus, but they're only there to regroup and rearm. And they believe that once that's done, they will launch an assault in eastern Ukraine. So government officials in three oblasts, in three states here in Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv have been telling civilians to go. So over the past few days, thousands of people have been getting on trains because they were afraid that the train service would stop. So that's why people are rushing to train stations there.

DETROW: So if train stations filled with people are being targeted, how are people going to get out of the east? What are people going to do to prepare for future strikes?

PERALTA: Yeah, I mean, look. That - I think that is the big question 'cause one of the remarkable things throughout this war is that trains have never stopped running. They have evacuated millions of Ukrainians to safety, to neighboring countries. And trains are still running. But there is fear that if airstrikes like this continue, the government will have to suspend service. And people can obviously use cars and buses, but that will very likely mean a much slower evacuation.

DETROW: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta coming to us from Kyiv. Eyder, thank you so much.

PERALTA: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.