Ukraine-Russia: Shopping centre with 1,000 inside hit in Russian attack

The number of casualties expected from a Russian missile attack on a busy shopping centre with up to a thousand people inside is “impossible to imagine”, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has warned.

The attack on the shopping centre in the city of Kremenchuk late on Monday afternoon killed at least 10 people and injured 40, officials said – but the true figures are expected to be much higher.

Video footage showed thick plumes of smoke rising from the mall, as it burned following the attack.

Boris Johnson condemned Russian president Vladimir Putin’s “cruelty and barbarism”, saying: “This appalling attack has shown once again the depths of cruelty and barbarism to which the Russian leader will sink.

Firefightersbattle a blaze in a mall hit by a Russian missile strike in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk, killing at least two and injuring dozens more, Ukraine's President said.

“Once again our thoughts are with the families of innocent victims in Ukraine. Putin must realise that his behaviour will do nothing but strengthen the resolve of the Ukraine and every other G7 country to stand by the Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

Mr Zelensky said in a Telegram post the number of victims was “impossible to imagine”, citing reports that more than 1,000 civilians were inside at the time of the attack.

The city's mayor, Vitaliy Meletskiy, branded the attack as a “war crime”.

He said in a post on Facebook the strike hit a "very crowded" place, where locals were going about their normal business.

The mall boasted clothes, shoe and sports shops, as well as toy outlets, supermarkets and department stores.

Mr Zelensky said: “The occupiers fired rockets at the mall, where there were more than a thousand civilians. The mall is on fire, rescuers are fighting the fire, the number of victims is impossible to imagine.

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“[It was] no danger to the Russian army, no strategic value. Only the attempt of people to live a normal life, which so angers the occupiers. Russia continues to place its powerlessness on ordinary citizens. It is useless to hope for adequacy and humanity on her part.”

Kyryl Tymoshenko, deputy head of the presidential office, said in a Telegram post at least two were dead and about 20 were hurt, with nine in serious condition.

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.

Russia has claimed the attacks were actually from Ukrainian missiles which hit the buildings “by mistake”.

Russia’s defence ministry says it fired what it called four "high-precision" air-launched missiles, targeting a factory producing munitions for Ukrainian Multiple Launch Rocket Systems – with all missiles landing on target.

The oil refinery at Kremenchuk, in the region of Poltava, is Ukraine's major petrol producer.

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.

Russia is meanwhile 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.

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 Mr 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 [our] last stronghold in the Luhansk region – Lysychansk,” Mr Haidai said.

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.

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, Mr Zelensky said Moscow wanted to “capture and completely destroy” Sloviansk.

The shockwave from Monday’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.”

Mr Zelensky’s office said that separate to the shopping centre attack, 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, Mr Haidai said. The city had a pre-war population of around 100,000, about 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.

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