A Russian strike on a railway station in Kramatorsk has killed at least 50 people, including five children, according to Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.
At least 98 more were wounded, many of which are in critical condition, the governor reported.
The spokeswoman of the Donetsk Oblast administration, Tetiana Ihnatchenko, said on national TV that the numbers of casualties are likely to grow.
The Russian forces used Tochka-U missile systems to hit a train station where thousands of civilians were waiting for evacuation at the moment of the attack.
Just two days earlier, on April 6, the Ukrainian authorities urged the residents of the country’s eastern regions – Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv oblasts – to evacuate, ahead of the military escalation in the area.
"Evacuations have been going on since Feb. 26, and the Russians knew that thousands of people are there every day. I believe that's what they were counting on," Ihnatchenko said.
Governor Kyrylenko said that the Russians deliberately targeted civilians.
“Russians are deliberately trying to disrupt the evacuation of civilians to use civilians as a shield,” he wrote. “For them, people's lives are just a bargaining chip and a tool to achieve their cynical goal.”
Nevertheless, Kyrylenko said that the evacuation will continue.
“Anyone who wants to leave the region will be able to do so,” he said, adding that further instructions are coming soon.
President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the attack saying that "Russian monsters do not abandon their methods."
"Lacking the strength and courage to fight with us on the battlefield, they are cynically destroying the civilian population. This is an evil that has no limits. And if it is not punished, it will never stop," he said.
Russia has deliberately attacked civilian infrastructure and residential buildings across Ukraine.
According to the United Nations, at least 1,417 civilians have been killed and 2,038 injured since Russia unleashed an all-out war against Ukraine on Feb. 24. The actual casualty numbers are expected to be significantly higher, as data from occupied and besieged territories is not accessible at the moment.
As Russian forces have recently withdrawn from the northern regions of Ukraine, the Ukrainian military say that Moscow is preparing for a major offensive in the east of the country.
On April 7, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba earlier warned that the battle of Donbas in eastern Ukraine will resemble World War II, with large-scale operations involving thousands of tanks, aircraft armored vehicles, and artillery.
“This will not be a local operation based on what we see from Russia’s preparations,” Kuleba said.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that “a big battle” in Donbas is expected, which is why the bloc members will provide more equipment to Ukraine and they realize the urgency of such deliveries.
On April 8, Luhansk Oblast Serhiy Haidai reported that Russian forces were finishing preparations for the "great battle of Donbas," adding that Russia was constantly trying to break through the line of defense in the east of Ukraine.