Russia’s Suspicious Claim to Rockets That Killed Fleeing Civilians

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On April 8, 2022, Ukrainian authorities and media said a rocket attack killed at least 52 people, including five children, at a train station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk.

Ukraine said Russian forces deliberately targeted the station, an evacuation center for civilians fleeing war, with two ballistic missiles. About 100 people were injured, according to news reports and Ukrainian officials.

Russia quickly denied responsibility and blamed Ukraine.

“All statements by representatives of the nationalist regime in Kyiv about the ‘rocket attack’ allegedly carried out by Russia on April 8 at the railway station in the city of Kramatorsk are a provocation and are absolutely false,” said the Russian Defense Ministry, according to a New York Times report.

As evidence, the ministry claimed that only Ukrainian forces are using the Tochka-U ballistic missiles which were allegedly used in the strike.

“We emphasize that the Tochka-U tactical missiles, fragments of which were found near the Kramatorsk railway station and published by eyewitnesses, are used only by the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” the Defense Ministry said.

A pro-Russian militia leader in Donbass said the same.

“I emphasize, it’s a rocket, Tochka-U, we don’t have such armament in our republics, Donetsk and Luhansk, and in the Russian Federation in the army they don’t have it either,” said Eduard Basurin, Deputy Chief. of the Donetsk militia, told the Russian channel TV1.

It’s probably wrong. Evidence shows that Russian convoys trucked Tochka-U systems to Belarus. And Russia reflexively accuses Ukraine of attacks on civilians, regardless of abundant evidence to the contrary.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blamed the Kramatorsk attack on Russian-fired Tochka-U missiles. Also known as the SS-21, the Tochka is a mobile, single-warhead system that can be launched in ballistic or cruise mode, according to a Center for Strategic International Studies Missile Threats report released in March. The weapons were developed in the 1970s by the Soviet Union.

In 2018, the Russian Ministry of Defense proudly announced the Tochka-U system in a YouTube video:

“It is believed that Russia currently has 300 TEL [launch] vehicles and 310 nuclear warheads for all versions of the Tochka” and that Ukraine has about 500 versions of the Tochka-U, a model introduced in 1989, the center reported.

Russian state newspaper AIF reported in 2017 that the Russian military began using the Tochka-U in 1989. A Russian Armed Forces-affiliated website, “Voennoe Obozrenie”, praised the Tochka-U system for its reliability, comparing it to the Kalashnikov, the famous Russian automatic assault rifle.

According to open sources, the Russian army has used Tochka-U missiles in Chechnya in the 1990s, in Syria, in Ukraine several times since the start of the war in 2014, including the first day of its full-scale invasion. February 24. .

That day, fragments of a rocket that hit a hospital in the village of Vugledar in eastern Ukraine, killing four people and injuring more than 10, were identified as a Tochka-U system launched by the Russian army, according to the Twitter account Ukrainian Weapons Tracker.

Ukraine also reportedly used Tochka-U systems in Donbass in 2014 and in March as part of the new Russian offensive.

An open-source investigative news site, the Belarusian Hajun Project, twice posted videos of Russian military columns marked with a letter “V” heading towards the Ukrainian border, on March 5 and March 30. the first column included “at least 30” and the second system “at least 8 Tochka-U”tweeted the site.

Russia’s deployment of around 30 Tochka-U systems to Belarusian borders near Ukraine was also reported by Telegram users on March 5.

During the Kramatorsk strike, photos show a piece of debris from a large rocket on which the words “for children” were written in Russian.

Ukrainian authorities said about 4,000 people were waiting to be evacuated from the station when the missiles struck on the morning of April 8.

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A handout photo released by the Donetsk state regional administration shows police and rescuers at the scene after a missile strike hit Kramatorsk railway station in the Donbass region of the eastern Ukraine, April 8, 2022. (Anatolii STEPANOV/AFP)

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A handout photo released by the Donetsk state regional administration shows police and rescuers at the scene after a missile strike hit Kramatorsk railway station in the Donbass region of the eastern Ukraine, April 8, 2022. (Anatolii STEPANOV/AFP)

In an article about the incident, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, a US monitoring site, reported that:

“The Russian Telegram channel Siloviki prematurely published reports that the Russians were “working on a group of Ukrainian armed forces at the Kramatorsk station” and celebrated the losses among Ukrainian fighters.
“A few minutes after the initial message they edited it, presumably after reports of civilian casualties proliferated. In the edited message, they said that when Kramatorsk station was hit, ‘It was maybe -be a Tochka-U [missile] that the Ukrainian Armed Forces use.
“Both posts were later deleted, but the original post and the edited post were archived as a forwarded post to another pro-Kremlin channel.”

Other teams of investigative journalists have also reported that the Russian denials are probably wrong. the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT), a group of Russian journalists, said the missiles that hit the Kramatorsk station likely came from the southeast, where the Russian Tochka-U systems are positioned.

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