Condemned by President Volodymyr Zelensky as a “brazen terrorist act,” the Russian attack on a busy shopping Centre in the central city of Kremenchuk has seen the death toll rise to 18 today, Tuesday, 28 June.
Emergency services said that 20 innocent civilians caught in the blasts had died, while 59 were injured and 25 were hospitalized. Another 40 people are thought to be missing, with a further 36 reported to be missing, Ukrainian newspaper pravda.com.ua.
Kremenchuk, an industrial city of 217,000 before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, is the site of Ukraine’s biggest oil refinery.
“Russian forces fired rockets at the shopping centre, where there were more than a thousand civilians,” President Zelensky said in a Telegram post on Monday evening. “The mall is on fire, rescuers are fighting the fire, [and] the number of victims is impossible to imagine.”
News aggregator Visegrad 24 reported that two Russian missiles had struck the shopping mall “in broad dayligh,t” adding: “Reports of many people stuck inside in the burning inferno, with desperate screams heard coming from the thick smoke.”
Attempts to rescue those trapped inside continued into the late evening, with Yaroslav Trofimov from the Wall Street Journal stating on Twitter that “the authorities say there are multiple fatalities. May be the deadliest Russian missile strike since the war began.”
The city’s mayor, Vitaliy Meletskiy, said in a post on Facebook that the strike hit a “very crowded” place and stated that there were “multiple casualties.”
Dmytro Lunin, governor of Poltava Region, said on Telegram that the incident is: “A crime against humanity. This is an open and cynical act of terror against the civilian population. Russia is a terrorist state.”
President Zelensky said the attack showed it was impossible to “expect decency and humanity” from Russia, while Mykhaylo Podolyak, an adviser to the president, said Russia had attacked the shopping centre “just because it wants to kill”, calling it “a terrorist state.”
The UN swiftly described the attack as “deplorable”, while US President Joe Biden branded it “cruel”. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the incident as “appalling”, adding that it demonstrated “once again the depths of cruelty and barbarism to which the Russian leader will sink.”
Despite evidence, including video footage, clearly indicating that Russia had attacked the site, and that the shopping centre simply contains retail outlets and civilians, Moscow’s defense ministry said on Tuesday, June 28 that the blaze there was caused by the “detonation of stored ammunition for western weapons”, adding: “On June 27, in the city of Kremenchuk, Russian forces delivered a strike with high-precision air-based weapons on hangars with weapons and ammunition received from the United States and European countries.
As a result of a high-precision strike, western-made weapons and ammunition concentrated in a storage area for further shipment to the Ukrainian group of troops in Donbas were hit. The detonation of stored ammunition for western weapons caused a fire in a non-functioning shopping Centre located next to the plant.”
Russia has frequently denied targeting or killing civilians during its ongoing war against Ukraine, and no proof was provided to support this latest claim – with widely circulated footage confirming that the shopping centre was being used by civilians, not for military purposes.
According to those clearing rubble at the site, 60% of the mall was destroyed by the strike, with over 400 workers assisting in ongoing efforts to make the site secure, recover bodies and treat the injured.
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