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11 people killed by Russian strike on large Ukrainian hardware shop

Thick black smoke billowed from the gutted Epitsentr superstore on the northeastern outskirts of the city.

THE DEATH TOLL from a Russian strike on a hardware superstore in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv has risen to 11 people, according to the regional governor, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemning the attack as “vile”.

“Unfortunately, the death toll at ‘Epitsentr’ has increased to 11 people,” Kharkiv regional governor Oleg Synegubov said on Telegram, referring to the store hit yesterday.

Earlier, he said six people had “died on the spot”, 40 were wounded and 16 were missing after two guided Russian bombs hit the store.

Two of those killed “were men who worked in the hypermarket”, Synegubov said in a video on Telegram.

Thick black smoke billowed from the gutted Epitsentr superstore on the northeastern outskirts of the city as firefighters sprayed water on a blaze sparked by the strikes.

The Epitsentr chain sells household and DIY goods.

Still wearing her uniform, Lyubov, a cleaner at the store, recalled how she escaped the building. “It happened all of a sudden. We didn’t understand at first, everything went dark and everything started falling on our heads,” she said. “It was good that my phone lit up. Thanks to the flashlight I found where to go, but in front of us everything was burning already.”

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, is just a few dozen kilometres from the border and regularly comes under attack from Russian missiles.

“As of now, we know that more than 200 people could have been inside the hypermarket,” Zelensky said Saturday on Telegram, condemning the daylight attack on an “obviously civilian” target.

Russia’s TASS state news agency cited a security source claiming that a missile strike destroyed a “military store and command post” inside the shopping centre.

The regional governor said there was “no contact with some of the staff” and “according to our information, visitors could still be in the building”.

Synegubov said the city was under “massive rocket fire all day” yesterday.

Later in the day, another strike hit the centre of Kharkiv, wounding 14 in an area containing a post office, a hairdresser and a cafe, the city’s mayor Igor Terekhov said.

Zelenskyy had visited Kharkiv on Friday and met with officials to discuss the defence of the surrounding region.

He urged world leaders to supply Ukraine with “sufficient air defence protection” to “prevent such terrorist attacks”.

The latest attacks came after Russia launched a ground offensive in the Kharkiv region on 10 May. Ukraine said Friday that it had managed to halt Moscow’s progress and was counterattacking.

Ukraine’s rescue service posted images of firefighters spraying water inside the blazing Epitsentr store building, with the roof torn open and debris strewn around.

They said the fire had raged over an area of 10,000 square metres but that the firefighters had managed to contain it.

Russia also carried out air strikes on the Kupiansk district, damaging a factory and residential buildings, prosecutors said.

In the eastern Donetsk region, shelling yesterday killed a 40-year-old woman and wounded four other people, said the head of the regional administration, Vadym Filashkin.

© AFP 2024