A Russian missile hit a busy shopping mall in central Ukraine on Monday, triggering a blaze in which the number of dead may be “impossible to imagine”, said the country’s president.
Hours after Volodymyr Zelenskyy pleaded with G7 leaders for more missile defence systems following a series of attacks at the weekend, Ukraine’s president posted a video on Telegram of the missile attack in Kremenchuk, about 320km south-east of Kyiv on the Dnipro River, that showed the shopping mall ablaze.
“The occupiers fired missiles at the mall, where there were more than a thousand civilians,” Zelenskyy said in the post.
“The mall is on fire, rescuers are fighting the fire, the number of victims is impossible to imagine,” he added.
There was no immediate comment from Moscow.
Footage on social media from Kremenchuk’s Amstor mall, close to the city centre, showed emergency services struggling to contain a huge fire on Monday afternoon.
In a Telegram video posted from the scene with rescue workers uncovering rubble behind him, Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said “the roof collapsed from the impact of a huge cruise missile . . . there may be many wounded under the ruins”.
Ukrainian officials late on Monday said at least 13 fatalities had so far been confirmed and 40 civilians wounded in the strike.
The latest missile attack, hundreds of kilometres from the battles in Ukraine’s east, is the latest indication that Moscow is prepared to step up hostilities despite growing international efforts to isolate the Russian economy following its invasion.
Ukrainian officials claim Russian president Vladimir Putin’s armed forces have fired more than 1,400 missiles at infrastructure, civilian and military targets since they launched a full-blown invasion of the country just over four months ago.
Dozens of strikes have rocked Ukrainian cities in recent days, including areas far from frontline battles, just as leaders of G7 countries started their summit in the German Alps. One missile hit a residential building and kindergarten in Kyiv early on Sunday morning, killing at least one person and injuring a child.
Zelenskyy said in the post that the shopping mall posed “no danger to the Russian army. No strategic value. Only the attempt of people to live a normal life, which so angers the occupiers.”
He added: “Russia continues to place its powerlessness on ordinary citizens. It is useless to hope for adequacy and humanity on her part.”
Russian missile strikes in past months have hit the Kremenchuk refinery, Ukraine’s largest oil processing plant — about 15km from the Amstor mall — as well as fuel depots across the country, causing nationwide fuel shortages.
Antony Blinken, US secretary of state, 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,” he added in a tweet.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson condemned the attack on the Kremenchuk mall in Ukraine, saying it was illustrative of Putin’s “cruelty”.
“This appalling attack has shown once again the depths of cruelty and barbarism to which the Russian leader will sink,” he 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 Ukraine for as long as it takes,” he added.
Additional reporting by Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe in Schloss Elmau and Max Seddon in Riga