A drone attack by Russia on a petrol station in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, led to the tragic death of seven individuals, including three children, as announced by local officials on Saturday. The assault resulted in a devastating inferno that rapidly extended to the adjacent street, causing fatal and injurious effects on the residents.
Oleskandr Lagutin, a local resident who suffered injuries from the incident, recounted the horror, stating, “In five minutes we had a river of fire. We had to run away from home, just run away.” The fatalities included a couple and a family of five, as per the statements from the local authorities.
Natalia, a grieving family member of the deceased couple, shared the chilling moments before losing contact with her mother-in-law, who was among the victims. Oleg Synegubov, the Kharkiv regional governor, detailed that the deceased family comprised parents and their three sons, aged seven years, four years, and seven months. The family sought refuge in their bathroom, whereas the father’s body was discovered in a corridor of their home.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the attack, mourning the innocent lives lost, particularly the young children, to what he described as “Russian madness.” He pledged that those responsible would face consequences, echoing a sentiment of “absolute anger” shared by presidential aide Andriy Yermak.
Sergiy Bolvinov, head of the Kharkiv police investigation, lamented that the victims were “burned alive,” with approximately 3,800 tons of fuel igniting in the depot. The resulting fires created a catastrophic scene, with homes along the street catching fire as the fuel blended with snow and ignited.
In response to the tragedy, about 50 people were evacuated from the area. This incident marks yet another in a series of attacks on Kharkiv since its recapture from Russian forces in the autumn of 2022.
The attack is part of a broader context of escalating tensions and ongoing conflict, with the UN human rights mission in Ukraine reporting significant civilian casualties in the city. Additionally, the incident underscores the continued drone attacks across Ukraine, particularly targeting the eastern Kharkiv and southern Odesa regions.
As Ukraine faces these regular assaults, there are growing calls for increased support and armament production from NATO and Western leaders, emphasising the urgent need for military aid and strategic defense measures against the backdrop of Russia’s prolonged offensive.