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JThousands of civilians, many of them children, were waiting to be evacuated to safety at the train station in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, on Friday morning when two missiles, which were later reported as slot weapons -munitions prohibited by international law, exploded in their midst. At least 50 people died and more than 100 others were injured. A message in Russian on the surviving missile casing read “For children”. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy rightly described the attack as the act of “an evil that knows no bounds”.

Even amid so many other horrors in Russia’s war on Ukraine, the Kramatorsk attack stands out for its heartless brutality. It has now been a week since Russian forces began to retreat after their invasion around kyiv was blocked. Meanwhile, reporters filed horrific revelations about the carnage and destruction the defeated Russians left behind. Evidence from places such as Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel and Borodianka, in which Ukrainian civilians appear to have been summarily murdered, has appalled the civilized world. War crimes charges seem rightly being leveled against Russia. Now the Kramatorsk crimes must be added to the indictment.

The past 10 days mark a significant shift in the dynamics and localization of the war in Ukraine. But this is not yet a simple or conclusive change. The Ukrainian resistance, aided by Western weaponry and technology, won a notable military victory by forcing the Russians to retreat. Kyiv is, for now, able to regain some kind of life; some refugees have started to return from the West, and Western leaders, including the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, moved there to show their solidarity. Russian troops have now left the Sumy northeast region. Ukraine has also regained control of its border with Belarus.

But the war itself is far from over. Moscow’s forces are regrouping in the east, following Russia’s decision to make the Donbass region its main objective. It’s a bit easier territory for them logistically and politically. He announces a new assault on Mariupol, new offensives in the Donbass (of which the missile attack on the Kramatorsk station is a part) and against Odessa, all of which will stretch Ukrainian supply lines and resources. As a result, President Zelenskiy has stepped up calls for additional Western military aid.

After a week like the previous one, he has more than ever morality on his side. He is also likely to feel less pressure to seek a compromise peace deal. Yet, by making these appeals, the Ukrainian president has helped trigger a new and intense phase of debate in Western democracies about how far they are really prepared to go in supporting Ukraine militarily. It revealed real differences about real dilemmas. The Czech Republic has provided Soviet-era tanks, Poland is planning to do the same, and Slovakia has sent air defense systems. The United States, Britain and France are more cautious, but all have quietly and gradually crossed the military threshold they adopted in February, according to which only defensive support would be granted. Some in the West, including Commons defense select committee chairman Tobias Ellwood, want them to go further.

This important debate is now taking place in real time. The welcome visit by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Downing Street on Friday was an integral part of this process; an announcement on anti-tank weapons was expected. Britain, like all Western allies, must be more open about the choices we and our allies face in the wake of the new phase in Ukraine. At the very least, there is now a strong case for dismissing Parliament before Easter, so that the very serious military options currently being actively considered by governments can be considered more openly.



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