The Russian missile strike on the funeral of a Ukrainian soldier that killed 51 people in the village of Hroza on Thursday could be a possible war crime, the UN has said.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the strike “demonstrated the depths of depravity Russian forces are willing to sink to,” according to a spokesperson.

Mourners had gathered at a café in the village, located around 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the frontline town of Kupiansk, in the Kharkiv region when the attack occurred.

Denise Brown, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, called the attack “absolutely horrifying,” stressing that “intentionally directing an attack against civilians or civilian objects is a war crime.”

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AFP journalists at the scene of the aftermath saw blackened and dismembered bodies spread out on the ground opposite the ruins of the cafe.

Police and soldiers loaded white body bags of unidentifiable bodies onto trucks that would take them to Kharkiv, where forensic experts would carry out DNA searches.

I will not last long alone

“My son was just found without a head, without arms, without legs, without anything. They recognized him from his documents," Volodymyr Mukhovaty, 70, told AFP.

His wife and daughter-in-law were also attending the wake and although he had “little hope” of finding them alive, he watched rescue workers from a distance, just in case.

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Kallas said that training Ukraine’s forces on their territory would not be escalatory, adding that “Russia’s propaganda is about being at war with NATO; they don’t need an excuse.”

“I lived with my wife for 48 years,” he said. “I will not last long alone.”

A six-year-old child was also among the victims, said Interior Minister Igor Klymenko, who added that a total of 60 people had been attending the memorial service.

Klymenko said initial evidence showed an Iskander missile had been used.

The village only had a population of some 330 people.

The soldier, whose wake it was, had been killed a month after Russia invaded.

He had been buried in the southern city of Dnipro – away from his home village, then under Russian occupation.

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He was reburied in Groza on Thursday morning. His wife and son, also a soldier, were both killed in the strike, a spokesman for the regional prosecutor's office was quoted as saying by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was attending a European summit in Spain, said he had no doubts that the strike had been deliberate.

“The Russian military could not fail to know where they were hitting,” he said. “It was not a blind strike.”

Zelensky also said he had secured agreements from several countries to provide Kyiv with more air defence systems and artillery.

“We will have more air defence – there are clear agreements,” he said.

“This is very important before winter. Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Great Britain -- thank you!”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had announced that Berlin would supply Kyiv with a new Patriot air-defence system. 

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock later posted on X, formerly Twitter: “As long as bombs hail on supermarkets and cafes, we do everything for #Ukraine to protect itself from Putin's missile terror.”

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