In a devastating incident that has sent shockwaves through Ukraine, at least 51 people were killed in a Russian missile strike on a village near the eastern Ukrainian city of Kupiansk. This attack is being labeled as one of the deadliest against civilians since the conflict began.
The strike, which took place in the village of Hroza in the Kharkiv region, targeted a cafe and a shop shortly after midday local time. Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko reported the grim incident, although the death and injury toll is still not final and may tragically increase.
Emergency workers are currently navigating through the dense rubble left in the wake of the attack, and doctors are providing care to the six people injured.
Heart-wrenching scenes have emerged of the bodies of the deceased, including a 6-year-old boy, being recovered from the devastated buildings. The Ukrainian interior minister stated that there were locals inside the store at the time of the missile strike, leading to a level of destruction not witnessed since a railway station attack in Kramatorsk claimed more than 60 lives in early 2022. The attack in Hroza, according to the latest count, wiped out approximately one fifth of the village, which had a population of 330 people.
Ukraine’s Interior Minister Klymenko emphasized the gravity of the situation, calling it “a terrible tragedy for Ukraine” and condemning it as yet another “terrible war crime” perpetrated by the Russians. He stressed the need for those responsible to be held accountable for their actions.
A similar attack occurred in the nearby town of Pervomaiske, where people were also bidding farewell to a fallen soldier, according to Dmytro Chubenko, a spokesperson for the Prosecutor’s Office in the Kharkiv region. However, unlike the previous incident, only civilians were present at the site of the attack in Hroza.
Ukrainian officials have identified the missile used in the attack as an Iskander missile. The Iskander is a ballistic missile with a relatively short range, carrying a warhead of between 500 and 700 kilograms, depending on its configuration. This type of missile has been frequently employed by the Russians in their conflict with Ukraine, resulting in significant civilian casualties.
Urgent Need for additional defense systems
Hroza is situated approximately 40 kilometers from the frontlines of the ongoing war near Kupiansk, a city in Kharkiv that Russian forces captured early in the conflict before losing it about a year ago. The Ukrainian military has been steadfast in its efforts to resist Moscow’s advances, considering the city strategically important to prevent Russia from accessing the nearby Oskil River, which offers a more convenient crossing point than further south.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov expressed the urgent need for additional defense systems to protect the country against such acts of terror. Concerns are mounting about a potential reduction in military aid from Western allies, given political turmoil in the U.S. Congress and dwindling ammunition supplies among NATO nations.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the missile strike as a “demonstrably brutal Russian crime” and urged the world to take a stand against Russian aggression. He emphasized that anyone supporting Russia’s actions was endorsing evil and called for an end to Russia’s “genocidal aggression.” Zelensky made these remarks at a European leaders summit in Granada, Spain, where the international community faces growing pressure to respond to the escalating violence in Ukraine.