KYIV, Ukraine — A Russian missile hit a train station in eastern Ukraine, killing at least 22 people, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday, in an attack that came as Ukraine celebrated its Independence Day and brought home the harsh reality of the six-month-old war.
The attack, which took place in an area about 74 miles east of the city of Dnipro in Ukraine-controlled territory, was one of the deadliest strikes on the country’s railways since April, when more than 50 people were killed when a rocket slammed into a crowded railway platform in eastern Ukraine.
“Rescuers are working,” President Zelensky said during a remote address to the U.N. Security Council via video. “But, unfortunately, the number of dead may still increase.”
By Thursday morning, officials said attacks in the area had killed 25 people and injured 31. The strike on the station came as the nation braced for stepped-up attacks as Ukraine celebrated its Independence Day, and President Zelensky said it was a reminder of the perils faced by people across his nation.
“There is no such war crime that the Russian occupiers have not yet committed on the territory of Ukraine,” he said.
Ukrainian National Railways had no immediate comment. But the railway has had an outsized role during the war, providing a critical lifeline for millions fleeing the fighting. Trains have also helped bring in more than 100,000 tons of humanitarian aid. Strikes on moving train cars have been exceedingly rare, and the circumstances of Wednesday’s strike were not immediately clear.
But it came as Russian missile launches triggered Ukrainian air defense systems across the country. The Ukrainian military’s General Staff said in its daily bulletin on the war that air and missile strikes on military and civilian targets had continued unabated. “Today is a day especially rich in air alarms,” the bulletin said.
Hours before the strike, a rocket slammed into a house in the same area, killing an 11-year-old child, according to the an official in the president’s office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko. Two children narrowly escaped with their lives, officials said. They had been buried under the rubble but were rescued by emergency crews.
“Around 3 p.m. in the Dnipropetrovsk region, in the Sinelnykove district, a Russian rocket hit a private house,” Mr. Tymoshenko said in a statement.
Speaking remotely to the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, Mr. Zelensky said he had received information of a Russian missile strike in the Dnipropetrovsk region at the Chaplyne railway station. “Four passenger cars are burning,” he said, according to a translation provided by one of his aides. “At least 15 people have been killed so far, about 50 injured.”
The attack took place as Ukrainians were marking their Independence Day amid fears that Moscow would use the high-profile moment to escalate its attacks.
The hope that the day commemorating Ukraine’s 1991 separation from the Soviet Union would pass without violence was shattered by the attack, which undermined celebrations across Ukraine. Earlier in the day, in a speech prerecorded for security reasons, Mr. Zelensky said Ukraine was a nation “reborn” in conflict with a renewed sense of cultural and political identity, now wholly separate from Russia.