Scores of civilians were feared killed or wounded in a Russian missile strike on a crowded shopping mall in Ukraine’s central city of Kremenchuk on Monday, Ukrainian officials said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Telegram post that the number of victims was “unimaginable,” citing reports that more than 1,000 civilians were inside at the time of the attack. Images from the scene showed giant plumes of black smoke from a shopping centre engulfed in flames, as emergency crews rushed in and onlookers watched in distress.
At least 10 people were dead and more than 40 wounded, according to the Ukrainian regional governor.
Zelensky said the target presented “no threat to the Russian army” and had “no strategic value.” He accused of Russia of sabotaging “people’s attempts to live a normal life, which make the occupiers so angry.”
No immediate comment from Russia
Kremenchuk, an industrial city of 217,000 before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, lies on the Dnipro river in the region of Poltava and is the site of Ukraine’s biggest oil refinery.
There was no immediate comment from Russia, which denies deliberately targeting civilians.
The alleged Russian missile strike carried echoes of attacks earlier in the war that caused large numbers of civilian casualties — such as one in March on a Mariupol theatre where many civilians had holed up, killing an estimated 600, and another in April on a train station in eastern Kramatorsk that left at least 59 people dead.
“Russia continues to take out its impotence on ordinary civilians. It is useless to hope for decency and humanity on its part,” Zelensky said.
Mayor Vitaliy Maletskiy wrote on Facebook that the attack “hit a very crowded area, which is 100 per cent certain not to have any links to the armed forces.”
G7 reaffirms support
The development comes as the leaders of the Group of Seven major democracies, including Canada, said they would keep sanctions on Moscow for as long as necessary and would intensify international economic and political pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government and its ally Belarus.
The U.S. said it was finalizing a weapons package for Ukraine that would include long-range air-defence systems — arms that Zelensky specifically requested when he addressed the leaders by video link from Kyiv on Monday.
Despite the boost from its allies, Ukraine was enduring another difficult day on the battlefront.
Russian shelling of the city of Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine killed four people and wounded 19 on Monday, the regional governor said.
“Doctors are providing all the necessary assistance. Information on the number of victims is being updated,” Oleh Synehubov, governor of the Kharkiv region, said on the Telegram messaging app.
There was no immediate comment from Russia.
Russian artillery was also pounding Lysychansk, just across the Siverskyi Donets River from now-ruined Severodonetsk.
Luhansk province governor Serhiy Gaidai said Lysychansk was suffering “catastrophic” damage. He urged civilians to evacuate urgently.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said the Russians were trying to cut off Lysychansk from the south. Russian war planes had also struck near the city, the general staff said in its daily update.
Luhansk and neighbouring Donetsk province make up the Donbas region — Ukraine’s industrial heartland. The Donbas became a prime target for the Kremlin after Russian troops failed to take the capital Kyiv in the early stages of the war, which is now in its fifth month.
Russian forces also control territory in the south, including the port city of Mariupol, which fell after a long siege that left it in ruins.