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'Deplorable' Russian strike kills at least 13 and injures dozens at Ukraine shopping centre

The Ukrainian defence ministry said the strike was timed to coincide with the centre’s busiest hours.

Ukrainian firefighters trying to put the fire out at a burning shopping centre after a Russian attack in Kremenchuk, Poltava region
Ukrainian firefighters trying to put the fire out at a burning shopping centre after a Russian attack in Kremenchuk, Poltava region
Image: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Updated Jun 27th 2022, 10:57 PM

A RUSSIAN MISSILE strike on a crowded shopping centre in the Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk killed at least 13 people, according to the regional governor. 

Dmytro Lunin, governor of the Poltava region, said the death toll had risen from 10 to at least 13, with more than 40 people wounded. 

“The Russian strike today on the shopping centre in Kremenchuk is one of the most brazen terrorist acts in European history,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening broadcast posted on Telegram.

Emergency services published images showing the smouldering remains of the building, with firefighters and rescuers trying to clear the debris.

The Ukrainian defence ministry said the strike was timed to coincide with the centre’s busiest hours and cause the maximum number of victims.

The Ukrainian air force said the mall was hit by Kh-22 anti-ship missiles fired from Tu-22 bombers from the region of Kursk in western Russia.

“The missile fire on Kremenchuk struck a very busy area which had no link to the hostilities,” the city’s mayor Vitali Maletsky wrote on Facebook.

Lunin denounced the attack as a “war crime” and a “crime against humanity”, saying it was a “cynical act of terror against the civilian population”. 

The strike came the day after Russia attacked the Ukrainian capital Kyiv for the first time in weeks, with missiles striking at least two residential buildings.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s office condemned the shopping centre strike as “totally deplorable”.

Kremenchuk, the town where the missile strike occurred, had so far been spared direct hits in the conflict, Guterres spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at a daily press briefing.

“Any attack that hits a shopping mall is totally deplorable,” the UN official said.

“We once again stress that the parties are obliged under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure,” he added.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the world “is horrified by Russia’s missile strike today, which hit a crowded Ukrainian shopping mall — the latest in a string of atrocities”.

“We will continue to support our Ukrainian partners and hold Russia, including those responsible for atrocities, to account,” Blinken said.

Meanwhile, Russia is mounting an all-out assault on the last Ukrainian stronghold in the eastern Luhansk region, “pouring fire” on the city of Lysychansk from the ground and air, the local governor has said.

Local governor Serhiy Haidai said Russian forces were pounding Lysychansk after capturing the neighbouring city of Sievierodonetsk in recent days.

It is part of a stepped-up Russian offensive to wrest the broader Donbas region from Ukrainian government control in what western experts say has become the new main goal of President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, now in its fifth month.

“They’re pouring fire on the city both from the air and from the ground. After the takeover of Sievierodonetsk, the enemy army has concentrated all its forces on capturing [the] last stronghold in the Luhansk region: Lysychansk,” Haidai told the Associated Press.

The Russians are trying to blockade the city from the south, “destroying everything that their artillery and multiple rocket launchers can reach”, he added.

In recent weeks, Russian troops have captured several villages and towns south east of Lysychansk, and are trying to halt access to the city from the south.

To the west, the mayor of the city of Sloviansk — potentially the next major battleground — said Russian forces fired cluster munitions on the city after dawn, including one that hit a residential neighbourhood.

Authorities said the numbers of dead and injured are still to be confirmed.

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Ukrainian forces have spent weeks consolidating their defences around Sloviansk out of concern it could be the next big Russian target if Lysychansk falls.

Last week, Zelenskyy said Moscow wanted to “capture and completely destroy” Sloviansk.

The shockwave from today’s blast blew out most windows in the surrounding apartment blocks and the cars parked below, littering the ground with broken glass.

“Everything is now destroyed. We are the only people left living in this part of the building. There is no power,” said local resident Valentina Vitkovska, in tears as she spoke about the blast. “I can’t even call to tell others what had happened to us.”

Zelenskyy’s office said at least six civilians had been killed and 31 injured as part of intense Russian shelling against various Ukrainian cities over the past 24 hours — including Kyiv and major cities in the country’s south and east.

It said Russian forces fired rockets that killed two people and injured five overnight in and near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and continued to target the key southern port of Odesa. A missile attack destroyed residential buildings and injured six people, including a child, it said.

In Lysychansk, at least five high-rise buildings and the last road bridge were damaged over the past 24 hours, Mr Haidai said. A crucial highway linking the city to government-held territory further south was rendered impassable because of shelling.

Such shelling is making the evacuation of civilians increasingly difficult, Haidai said. The city had a pre-war population of around 100,000, approximately a tenth of whom remain.

Analysts say Lysychansk’s location high on the banks of the Siverskiy Donets river, as well as its large area dotted with hills, give a major advantage to the city’s Ukrainian defenders.

The river encloses Lysychansk from the north and east, while the Ukrainian army continues to hold territory west of the city, which it uses to supply arms and humanitarian aid.

Additional reporting by AFP

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