War in Ukraine live updates: Russian rocket kills at least 50 people as they were trying to evacuate, Ukraine says

Published April 8, 2022 at 7:02 AM EDT
Belongings litter the ground next to burnt cars outside of a train station.
Herve Bar
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AFP via Getty Images
Personal belongings of victims scatter the sidewalk and burned-out vehicles sit on the street after a rocket attack on the railway station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, in the Donbass region on Friday.

A Ukrainian military official says a Russian missile hit a train station in Kramatorsk. It was full of people trying to flee at the government's urging. In additionto the 50 dead, including five children, about 100 others were hospitalized, an official says.

Here's what else we're following today:

Security

U.S. to place Patriot missile defense system in Slovakia to help with Ukraine swap

Posted April 8, 2022 at 12:44 PM EDT
A woman and man stand, wearing vests, surrounded by soldiers.
Sergei Supinsky
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AFP via Getty Images
Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger (left), European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell visit a mass grave in the town of Bucha on Friday.

President Biden said on Friday that the United States would place a Patriot missile defense system in Slovakia after that country provided a Russian-made S-300 air defense system to Ukraine.

Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger said earlier in the day that his country had sent an S-300 mobile anti-aircraft system to Ukraine (which has an existing supply of such systems but lost a number of them in the course of the war). Slovakia previously said it would ship S-300 systems to Ukraine, provided its NATO allies would backfill them with other weapons.

Biden thanked the Slovakian government for its actions and said the U.S. will give it a U.S. Patriot missile system "to enable this transfer and ensure the continued security of Slovakia."

He added that while the Russian military may have failed to capture Kyiv, it continues to "inflict horrific acts of brutality" on the Ukrainian people.

"As the Russian military repositions for the next phase of this war, I have directed my Administration to continue to spare no effort to identify and provide to the Ukrainian military the advanced weapons capabilities it needs to defend its country," Biden said.

Sanctions

UK sanctions the daughters of Putin and foreign minister Lavrov

Posted April 8, 2022 at 12:12 PM EDT
Putin and Lavrov speak while sitting next to each other at a table, with colorful flags in the background.
Alexey Nikolsky/Pool
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AFP via Getty Images
The children of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are the latest targets of Western sanctions.

The United Kingdom is following in the United States' footsteps by introducing new sanctions on the two adult daughters of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

U.K. officials are enacting an asset ban and travel freeze on Putin's daughters as well as the daughter of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov — exactly two weeks after placing similar sanctions on Lavrov's stepdaughter.

"By freezing the assets and limiting the travel of Putin’s allies, the UK Government is sealing off reservoirs of cash funding the conflict, while also making sure those who have benefited from Putin’s rule feel the consequences," officials said in a statement Friday.

The move comes as Western countries step up sanctions against Russia in response to reports of its forces committing alleged war crimes in Bucha and other parts of Ukraine. Citing a new analysis, officials said that the sanctions placed on Russia in the weeks since its invasion have frozen a majority of its foreign currency reserves, triggered rapid inflation and set it on track for a significant recession.

"Our unprecedented package of sanctions is hitting the elite and their families, while degrading the Russian economy on a scale Russia hasn’t seen since the fall of the Soviet Union," said Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

But she said more needs to be done to hold Russia accountable and shrink Putin's war chest, adding that the U.K. is working with partners through the G-7 to end the use of Russian energy.

Officials said last monththat the U.K. will phase out the import of Russian oil and oil products by the end of 2022.

Media

Fox News reporter injured in Ukraine tweets and deletes updates about his condition

Posted April 8, 2022 at 11:46 AM EDT

Benjamin Hall, the Fox News reporter who was injured in an attack that killed two of his colleagues while covering the war in Ukraine last month, shared his first update about his condition in a series of since-deleted tweets on Thursday.

Hall shared a photo of himself on a hospital bed, wearing a patch over one eye.

"To sum it up, I've lost half a leg on one side and a foot on the other," he wrote. "One hand is being put together, one eye is no longer working, and my hearing is pretty blown… but all in all I feel pretty damn lucky to be here - and it is the people who got me here who are amazing!"

It is not clear why Hall deleted the tweet, which was widely shared and prompted an outpouring of supportive comments. NPR has reached out to Fox for comment.

Hall was injured while reporting outside of the capital of Kyiv on March 14. Two of his Fox colleagues, veteran video journalist Pierre Zakrzewski and freelance journalist Oleksandra Kuvshynov, were killed in the same attack.

"I need to pay tribute to my colleagues Pierre and Sasha who didn't make it that day," he wrote on Thursday. "Pierre and I traveled the world together, working was his joy and his joy was infectious. RIP."

FOX News Media CEO Suzanne Scott announced two days after the attack that Hall was "safe and out of Ukraine," without elaborating on the nature or severity of his injuries. He was flown to a hospital in Germany before being transferred to a medical facility in Texas to undergo multiple surgeries, Fox reported Thursday.

Hall is a father of three and a State Department correspondent based in Washington, D.C. According to his bio on Fox's website, he served as a war correspondent in the Middle East and Africa before joining the network in 2015 and continuing to cover foreign conflicts.

Civilian deaths

Death toll in Russia's train station attack rises to 50

Posted April 8, 2022 at 11:20 AM EDT

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Russia's missile attack on a train station in eastern Ukraine has killed 50 people, including five children, according to a Ukrainian official.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration, confirmed the updated death toll on social media on Friday, saying that 38 people died at the station in Kramatorsk and 12 died in the hospital. Another 98 people have been hospitalized, he added.

Ukrainian officials say the station was full of people trying to evacuate at the government's urging, as Russian troops refocus their efforts on the eastern part of the country. The railroad said this week that it might suspend service from the Donbas, fueling the rush to train stations.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's foreign minister, called the attack "a deliberate slaughter" in a tweet, accusing Russians of knowing that the station was packed with civilians trying to get out.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a Facebook post that Russian forces hit the railway station with a Tochka-U missile. Kyrylenko, also, tweeted that a Tochka was used. He had said earlier that the missile was an Iskander, loaded with cluster munitions.

The Russian Ministry of Defense denied any involvement in the attack, calling reports of its responsibility "a provocation." The Kremlin backed the claim.

Military aid

Slovakia gives Ukraine an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system

Posted April 8, 2022 at 10:42 AM EDT

Slovakia has sent an S-300 mobile anti-aircraft system to Ukraine, bolstering its defenses against Russian airstrikes.

Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger confirmed the news Friday, as he visited Kyiv alongside EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Ukraine is “bravely defending its sovereign country and us, too. It is our duty to help,” Heger said via Twitter, decrying the loss of human life under Russia’s invasion of its neighbor.

The Ukrainian military already has a supply of the S-300 systems, but it has lost a number of the weapons during the war with Russia. The system’s original design was created in the Soviet Union, and it can target aircraft and cruise missiles more than 30,000 feet in the air.

Slovakia had previously said that it would ship S-300 systems to Ukraine, if Slovakia’s NATO allies promise to backfill them with other weapons.

Music

Members of Pink Floyd reunite to record a song for Ukraine

Posted April 8, 2022 at 10:21 AM EDT

When the invasion of began, Ukrainian singer Andriy Khlyvnyuk cut his U.S. tour short, returned home and took up arms to defend his homeland.

A few days later, the Boombox singer posted a clip on Instagram that showed him in military fatigues, wearing a New York Yankees baseball cap and carrying a rifle performing "The Red Viburnum In The Meadow," a Ukrainian protest song written during World War I.

"A little motivation from the leader of the group 'Boombox' Andriy Khlyvnyuk," he wrote.

Now, rock legends Pink Floyd have taken Khlyvnyuk's vocals and composed a charity single around it — the band's first new original music since 1994's Division Bell.

The track, "Hey, Hey, Rise Up," features 90 seconds of David Gilmour's string-bending solo, and Floyd drummer Nick Mason. (Needless to say, estranged bassist Roger Waters is noticeably absent.)

The title references the last line of the protest song: "Hey, hey, rise up and rejoice."

Click here to read how the song came about.

Pink Floyd - Hey Hey Rise Up (feat. Andriy Khlyvnyuk of Boombox)

Fallout

Global food prices hit their highest recorded levels last month, driven up by the war

Posted April 8, 2022 at 9:38 AM EDT
A tractor drives over dusty land beneath a blue sky.
Nariman El-Mofty
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AP
Workers plow wheat in Husakiv village in western Ukraine late last month.

A United Nations agency says the war in Ukraine sent food commodity prices soaring in March to the highest levels it has ever recorded.

The Food and Agriculture Organization announced on Friday that its FAO Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in the international prices of a "basket of commonly-traded food commodities," averaged 159.3 points in March. That's up 12.6% from February, which already saw the highest level since the organization began tracking in 1990. It's also 33.6% higher than it was last March.

The FAO says the war "spread shocks through markets for staple grains and vegetable oils."

Russia and Ukraine collectively accounted for about 30% of global wheat exports and 20% of maize exports over the last three years, the organization said, with conflict-related export disruptions in both countries prompting a surge in global prices of wheat and coarse grain. The FAO Cereal Price Index was 17.1% higher in March than it was in February.

"The expected loss of exports from the Black Sea region exacerbated the already tight global availability of wheat," the organization added. "With concerns over crop conditions in the United States of America also adding support, world wheat prices rose sharply in March, soaring by 19.7 percent."

It also notes that Ukraine is the world's leading exporter of sunflower seed oil, and says the rising prices of sunflower seed oil and crude oil raised the prices of other vegetable oils, like palm, soy and rapeseed. Altogether, the FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index rose 23.2% in a month.

FAO saw smaller increases in its indices for sugar, meat and dairy commodities, for which it cited a number of factors (from a shortfall of slaughter pigs in Western Europe to the currency appreciation of the Brazilian real).

The organization also released a new forecast for the production and utilization of cereals (or grains used for food) for the 2021/2022 season to reflect the expected impact of the war on grain markets. It says the wheat production forecast has been lowered slightly since last month's estimate, but still points to an increase of 1.1% (to 784 million metric tons).

"Port closures in Ukraine are seen significantly limiting exports from the country, while financial and freight challenges are hindering exports from the Russian Federation," it explained. "These factors are likely to remain in effect for the remainder of the 2021/22 season."

The FAO says the expected loss of exports will manifest in lower shipments to and from the region, higher global prices, reduced imports, slower demand growth and "smaller stocks than previously expected in several countries." That's all on top of increased market uncertainty, shifting trade flows and changing export measures.

It also lowered its forecast for world trade in cereals, citing the war and currently available information. By way of compensation, it predicts that European Union and India will increase wheat exports while the U.S., Argentina and India will ship more maize.

Global food security experts fear that Russia's war in Ukraine could cause a surge in severe malnutrition and even starvation far beyond its borders. NPR's Nurith Aizenman reports that there could be monetary solutions — despite the world's poor track record in this area.

Interview

NATO chief warns of heavier fighting in 'new phase' of Ukraine war

Posted April 8, 2022 at 9:33 AM EDT
A man in a suit speaks at a podium in front of a NATO sign.
François Walschaerts
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AFP via Getty Images
NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a press conference at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Morning Edition host Leila Fadel that he anticipates heavier fighting in the weeks and months ahead as the Ukraine war moves into a “new phase."

He believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin "totally underestimated" the strength of Ukrainian forces and the support of its Western allies. But he doesn't think Putin has changed his overall aim of controlling Ukraine — and now the Russian military has changed its strategy to focus in on the east.

"What we have seen so far is extremely bad. It has caused a lot of casualties, civilian suffering, destruction," he said. "But the scale and the scope of the fight we may see in Donbas will be even much heavier and even more dangerous."

Stoltenberg said now is the time for NATO allies to reinforce the Ukrainians, both by providing them with advanced weapons systems and resupplying them with basic necessities like fuel, ammunition, food rations and medical kits.

Listen to their conversation or read on for excerpts.

On the war’s predicted duration

It's President Putin who is responsible for this senseless war, and he can end that war tomorrow by withdrawing his troops and sit down and engage in good faith in negotiations for a political solution. But you have to be realistic and realize that that's not very likely. So therefore, we need to also be prepared for the long haul. And it's hard to predict. Wars are always unpredictable. But this can last for months and even years, and that's reason also why we need to continue to provide support to Ukraine and be prepared for doing so for a long time.

On the long-term impact of the war on Russia’s relationship with NATO

There's no way we can go back to the meaningful dialogue we tried to establish with Russia for many, many years. We need now to continue to talk to Russia, to address issues like deconfliction, to prevent incidents and accidents — and if they happen to ensure that they don't spiral out of control — and also, of course, talk to Russia on issues like arms control. But the kind of dialogue and even more what we strive for to establish a better relationship with Russia, that doesn't have any meaning in the current situation.

On the morale of the Ukrainian people

I'm impressed by the courage and by the strength of not only the Ukrainian armed forces, but also the Ukrainian people, and not least the Ukrainian leadership. And its high spirit, morale has, of course, been absolutely essential for the strength in the resistance we have seen from Ukraine.

International Dispatch
On the ground

Kyiv is tense and quiet as the war front shifts east

Posted April 8, 2022 at 8:06 AM EDT
People stand on a sidewalk with two dogs.
Rodrigo Abd
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AP
Neighbors walk with their dogs in downtown in Kyiv, Ukraine on Thursday.

Russian and Ukrainian troops are repositioning to the east, with heavy fighting expected as the war enters its seventh week.

Here in Kyiv, the capital, there’s a markedly smaller military presence than there was even a week ago. Ukrainian military officials have been coy about troop movements. But soldiers whom NPR has talked to over the last few days say many troops are redeploying to the country’s east.

U.S. defense officials say Russian troops are amassing in that region, too, after withdrawing from the area around the capital. Ukraine’s deputy defense minister has also warned that Russia is planning a second wave of attacks in the Ukrainian east.

Asked about potential troop redeployments yesterday, Ukraine’s military defense spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said he could not speak to specific troop movements for obvious reasons but did say: “Ukrainian units troops that have been defending in combat operations in Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts are being strengthened.”

He added that Russian troops remain near Ukraine’s northern border in Belarus.

Tensions remain high here Kyiv though, with many roadblocks and frequent air raid sirens. The city remains relatively quiet with many people still away.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko and other local officials continue to say the Kyiv region is not safe to return to, and there are lingering concerns Russia could put the capital in the crosshairs again.

Chernobyl

Russian troops were camped in Chernobyl's radioactive zone, possibly at risk

Posted April 8, 2022 at 7:54 AM EDT
Satellite imagery shows a line of vehicles on a road between dirt and trees, with an encampment to the right.
Planet Labs PBC
Satellite imagery taken on March 16 suggests that Russian troops were set up in a radioactive zone.

Satellite imagery shows that Russia troops were living in some of the most radioactive parts of Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear site when they occupied it last month — a decision that may have put them at risk.

A satellite photo from the company Planet shows that Russian troops set up tents and parked vehicles inside a particularly radioactive section of Chernobyl's "exclusion zone," the area around the plant where people are prohibited from living. The troops took control of Chernobyl at the end of February and stayed in the area for just over a month.

Kathryn Higley, a radiation health expert at Oregon State University, says this campsite was a bad idea.

"You shouldn't go into a contaminated site and have people camping out and digging in the dirt," she adds.

Higley doesn't think radiation levels were high enough to make Russian troops sick, at least not right away. But she says it does show just how little regard Russian forces have for safety, including their own.

Read the full story here.

On the ground

Putin's spokesman says Russia’s losses in Ukraine are ‘a huge tragedy for us’

Posted April 8, 2022 at 7:33 AM EDT
Cars drive past a burned-out Russian armored personnel carrier on a road west of Kyiv, on April 7, 2022. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Russia has suffered "significant losses" in Ukraine.
GENYA SAVILOV
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AFP via Getty Images
Cars drive past a burned-out Russian armored personnel carrier on a road west of Kyiv on Thursday. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Russia has suffered "significant losses" in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Russia has suffered "significant losses of troops, and it’s a huge tragedy for us.” The comments immediately drew wide attention after airing in an interview with Sky News.

The admission of serious losses comes roughly two weeks since Russia’s military last gave an update on its casualty numbers. It said on March 25 that 1,351 Russian service members were killed and 3,825 were injured in the first month of the war in Ukraine.

In the interview, Sky News' Mark Austin asked Peskov about Russia losing “thousands” of troops. The Kremlin spokesman agreed with that assessment, but he didn’t provide a new tally of the war’s toll.

As news outlets around the world relayed Peskov’s rare statement that the war poses a tragedy for Russia, state media outlet Tass issued a clarification from the press secretary, in which he said he was relying only on the figures already released by Russia’s defense ministry. The casualty figure of 1,351 lost troops is a significant number, Peskov explained.

Speaking to Sky, Peskov also reiterated the Kremlin’s stance that Russian forces have not committed war crimes or killed Ukrainian civilians, insisting that video and satellite footage showing dead civilians in formerly Russian-occupied areas are actually fabrications staged by Ukraine. The troops recently left Kyiv and other northern regions, as Russia is expected to focus its attacks on eastern Ukraine.

Developing story

Russian forces hit a train station full of people evacuating from eastern Ukraine

Posted April 8, 2022 at 7:03 AM EDT
Men inspect a large rocket on the grass.
Fadel Senna
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AFP via Getty Images
Ukrainian police inspect the remains of a large rocket with the words "for our children" in Russian next to the main building of a train station in Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine on Friday.

Some 30 people have been killed after a Russian missile hit a train station in Eastern Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian government.

In a statement, Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration, said the station was full of people trying to evacuate when it was allegedly hit by a missile. In his statement, Kyrylenko says the missile, an Iskander, was loaded with cluster munitions. NPR has not been able to verify that independently.

Photos shared by Kyrylenko show the station on fire and bloodied bodies strewn amid abandoned luggage.

The Kremlin and Russian Ministry of Defense deny any Russian involvement in the rocket attack on the train station.

Ukraine says Russian troops have retreated from the capital region, are regrouping in Belarus and will move on Eastern Ukraine soon.

When those attacks begin, regional authorities warn, civilians may not have a chance to flee, so they have been urging people in Donbas and Kharkiv regions to evacuate. From the beginning of this conflict, trains have been used to carry millions of Ukrainians out of country.

In his own statement, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that rescue workers were on the scene and that more than 100 people were injured.

“This is an evil that has no limits,” he said. “And if it is not punished it will never stop.”