Russia Missile Strike Hits Ukraine Mall06/28 06:22
KREMENCHUK, Ukraine (AP) -- Russian long-range bombers struck a crowded
shopping mall in Ukraine's central city of Kremenchuk with a missile on Monday,
raising fears of what President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called an "unimaginable"
number of victims in "one of the most daring terrorist attacks in European
Zelenskky said that many of the more than 1,000 afternoon shoppers and staff
inside the mall managed to escape. Giant plumes of black smoke, dust and orange
flames emanated from the wreckage, with emergency crews rushing in to search
broken metal and concrete for victims and put out fires. Onlookers watched in
distress at the sight of how an everyday activity such as shopping could turn
into a horror.
The casualty figures were changing as rescuers searched the smoldering
rubble into early Tuesday. Ukraine's emergency services reported late Monday
that at least 16 people were dead and about 60 wounded.
Soldiers worked into the night to lug sheets of twisted metal and broken
concrete, as one drilled into what remained of the shopping center's roof.
Drones whirred above, clouds of dark smoke still emanating from the ruins
several hours after the fire had been put out.
"We are working to dismantle the construction so that it is possible to get
machinery in there since the metal elements are very heavy and big, and
disassembling them by hand is impossible," said Volodymyr Hychkan, an emergency
At Ukraine's request, the U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency
meeting in New York on Tuesday to discuss the attack.
In the first Russian government comment on the missile strike, the country's
first deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyansky,
alleged multiple inconsistencies that he didn't specify, claiming on Twitter
that the incident was a provocation by Ukraine. Russia has repeatedly denied it
targets civilian infrastructure, even though Russian attacks have hit other
shopping malls, theaters, hospitals, kindergartens and apartment buildings.
The missile strike unfolded as Western leaders pledged continued support for
Ukraine, and the world's major economies prepared new sanctions against Russia,
including a price cap on oil and higher tariffs on goods. Meanwhile, the U.S.
appeared ready to respond to Zelenskyy's call for more air defense systems, and
NATO planned to increase the size of its rapid-reaction forces nearly eightfold
-- to 300,000 troops.
Zelenskyy said the mall presented "no threat to the Russian army" and had
"no strategic value." He accused Russia of sabotaging "people's attempts to
live a normal life, which make the occupiers so angry."
In his nightly address, he said it appeared Russian forces had intentionally
targeted the shopping center and added, "Today's Russian strike at a shopping
mall in Kremenchuk is one of the most daring terrorist attacks in European
history." He said Russia "has become the largest terrorist organization in the
Russia has increasingly used long-range bombers in the war. Ukrainian
officials said Russian Tu-22M3 long-range bombers flying over Russia's western
Kursk region fired the missile that hit the shopping center, as well as another
that hit a sports arena in Kremenchuk.
The Russian strike echoed attacks earlier in the war that caused large
numbers of civilian casualties -- such as one in March on a Mariupol theater
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
"Russia continues to take out its impotence on ordinary civilians. It is
useless to hope for decency and humanity on its part," Zelenskyy said.
Kremenchuk Mayor Vitaliy Maletskiy wrote on Facebook that the attack "hit a
very crowded area, which is 100% certain not to have any links to the armed
The United Nations called the strike "deplorable," stressing that civilian
infrastructure "should never ever be targeted," U.N. spokesman Stephane
Dujarric said. Group of Seven leaders issued a statement late Monday condemning
the attack and saying that "indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians
constitute a war crime. Russian President Putin and those responsible will be
held to account."
The attack coincided with Russia's all-out assault on the last Ukrainian
stronghold in eastern Ukraine's Luhansk province, "pouring fire" on the city of
Lysychansk from the ground and air, according to the local governor. At least
eight people were killed and more than 20 wounded in Lysychansk when Russian
rockets hit an area where a crowd gathered to obtain water from a tank, Luhansk
Gov. Serhiy Haidai said.
The eastern barrage was part of Russian forces' intensified offensive aimed
at wresting the eastern Donbas region from Ukraine. Over the weekend, the
Russian military and their local separatist allies forced Ukrainian government
troops out of Lysychansk's neighboring city, Sievierodonetsk.
To the west of Lysychansk on Monday, the mayor of the city of Sloviansk --
potentially the next major battleground -- said Russian forces fired cluster
munitions, including one that hit a residential neighborhood. Authorities said
the number of victims had yet to be confirmed. The Associated Press saw one
fatality: A man's body lay hunched over a car door frame, his blood pooling
onto the ground from chest and head wounds. The 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," said resident Valentina Vitkovska, in tears
as she spoke about the blast. "We are the only people left living in this part
of the building. There is no power. I can't even call to tell others what had
happened to us."
Before Monday's attacks, at least six civilians were killed and 31 others
wounded 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, according to Zelenskyy's office. Shelling on Monday in Kharkiv,
Ukraine's second-largest city, killed at least five people and wounded 15.
Russian forces continued to target the key southern Black Sea port of Odesa.
A missile attack destroyed residential buildings and wounded six people,
including a child, Ukrainian authorities said.
In Lysychansk, at least five high-rise buildings and the last road bridge
were damaged over the past day, Haidai said. A crucial highway linking the city
to government-held territory to the south was rendered impassable. The city's
prewar population of around 100,000 has dwindled to fewer than 10,000.
Analysts say that Lysychansk's location high on the banks of the Siverskiy
Donets River gives a major advantage to Ukrainian defenders.
"It's a very hard nut to crack. The Russians could spend many months and
much effort storming Lysychansk," said military analyst Oleh Zhdanov.
In other developments, in Germany's Bavarian Alps, leaders of the G7
countries unveiled plans to seek new sanctions and pledged to continue
supporting Ukraine "for as long as it takes." In a joint statement Monday after
they held a session by video link with Zelenskyy, the leaders underlined their
"unwavering commitment to support the government and people of Ukraine in their
courageous defense of their country's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Elsewhere, Washington was expected to announce the purchase of an advanced
surface-to-air missile system for Ukraine.
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced plans to
greatly expand the alliance's rapid-reaction forces as part of its response to
an "era of strategic competition." The NATO response force currently has about
40,000 soldiers. NATO will agree to deliver further military support to Ukraine
-- including secure communication and anti-drone systems -- when its leaders
convene in Spain for a summit later this week, Stoltenberg said.
Britain's defense ministry said Russia is likely to rely increasingly on
reserve forces in the coming weeks. Analysts have said a call-up of reservists
by Russia could vastly alter the balance in the war but could also come with
negative political consequences for President Vladimir Putin's government.