June 25, 2024

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky decried a Russian missile strike on a small Ukraine hamlet that killed 52 people Thursday, calling the attack one of “absolute evil.”

“Russian terrorists launched an attack that one can’t even call beastly. Because it would be an insult to beasts,” Zelensky said in a Thursday night speech. “Russian military personnel couldn’t have been unaware of where they were striking. It was not a blind attack.

“People had gathered there for a memorial meal, a Christian memorial meal,” he continued. “Who could launch a missile at them? Who? Only absolute evil.”

The missile struck near a grocery store and a cafe in the Hroza village, which is in the Kupyansk district of the Kharkiv region.

All the victims of the attack were civilians, according to Ukrainian authorities. A young boy was among the dead.

Kharkiv regional Gov. Oleh Synyehubov said on Telegram that 25 nearby homes were also damaged. Synyehubov added Friday that Russia is continuing to shell the region.

The strike was among the deadliest on civilian populations in the war. Moscow denies targeting civilians but acknowledges it carries out frequent strikes to cripple the Ukrainian military.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said he is “shocked and saddened” by the strike and that “human rights monitors will visit the site to gather information” about the attack.

At a briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called it an “incredibly horrifying” attack.

“We have to stop and think about this. Let’s stop and think about what we’re seeing: 49 innocent people who were killed by a Russian airstrike while they were shopping for food at a supermarket,” she said Thursday, before the death toll had risen. “That’s what they were doing.

“Can you imagine just walking to the grocery store with your kids, trying to figure out what is it that you’re going to make for dinner, and you see an explosion happen where bodies are everywhere?” she continued. “And it’s horrifying. So this is what is happening in Ukraine every day.

“This is why we’re doing everything that we can to help Ukraine, to help the brave people of Ukraine to fight for their freedom.”

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