The EU accused Russia of a deadly attack on a train station in eastern Ukraine on Friday as European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen headed to Kyiv.
The visit by one of the European Union’s most senior officials was happening just hours after the rocket attack that killed at least 35 people and denied a major escape route for civilians.
EU Council chief Charles Michel in Brussels directly accused Russia of the “horrifying” attack.
He said “action was needed” and pointed to the fifth wave of EU sanctions on Russia agreed on Friday.
“Horrifying to see Russia strike one of the main stations used by civilians evacuating the region where Russia is stepping up its attack,” Michel said on Twitter.
Moscow denied its forces attacked the Kramatorsk train station, calling allegations that they did “absolutely untrue”.
AFP journalists at the scene in Kramatorsk described seeing at least 20 bodies under plastic sheets next to the station, and the remains of a large rocket with the words “for our children” in Russian.
Von der Leyen’s trip to Kyiv, in which EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell was also participating, was announced as a show of European Union solidarity with Ukraine, a non-EU country that hopes to join the bloc.
“Looking forward to Kyiv,” von der Leyen wrote on Twitter accompanied by a picture of her with Borrell and Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger.
“I want to send a very strong message of unwavering support to the Ukrainian people and their brave fight for our common values.”
En route to Kyiv, Borrell told journalists the EU would supply 7.5 million euros ($8.2 million) to train Ukrainian prosecutors to investigate war crimes, which Russia is accused of committing in the country.
Ukraine was not “dominated” by the Russian forces, Borrell said, adding: “There’s still a government to receive people from outside.”
He announced that the EU would reopen its diplomatic mission in Kyiv.
According to Borrell, EU leaders will discuss the requests made by their Ukrainian counterparts for military assistance, as well as future sanctions against Russia.
Their visit comes after one made last week by the speaker of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola — the first trip to Ukraine by the head of an EU institution since the war began.
Von der Leyen and Borrell were to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
After Kyiv, von der Leyen was to go on to Poland to co-host a “Stand Up For Ukraine” pledging event for Ukraine refugees on Saturday.
The Czech, Polish and Slovenian prime ministers visited Kyiv on March 15, before Russian troops withdrew from around the capital, in the first trip by European Union leaders since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24