World leaders have condemned Russia’s devastating missile attack on a shopping mall in the Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk as a war crime, as the toll from Monday’s attack rose to 18.
A further 21 people were still missing, Ukraine’s interior minister Denys Monastyrskiy said in a briefing on Tuesday, adding that some of those might be among the 18 recovered bodies. At least 59 others were wounded in the attack, which happened with about 1,000 people inside the busy shopping centre.
In an address posted to Telegram on Monday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned the strike as “one of the most brazen terrorist acts in European history.”
“A peaceful city, an ordinary shopping centre, inside – women, children, ordinary civilians,” he said, adding that there were 1,000 people inside when air raid sirens began to sound.
PHOTO: AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
“Fortunately, as far as we know at this time, many people managed to get out... But there were still people inside; workers, some visitors.
“Only completely heartless terrorists, who should have no place on earth, can strike missiles at such an object. And this is not a mistaken hit by missiles, this is a calculated Russian strike at this shopping centre.”
People have been lighting candles and leaving flowers at the shopping centre. PHOTO: AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
Meanwhile, G7 leaders, who have been meeting for a summit in Germany’s Bavarian Alps, issued a statement on Monday night condemning the attack.
“We, the leaders of the G7, solemnly condemn the abominable attack on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk,” it read.
“We stand united with Ukraine in mourning the innocent victims of this brutal attack. Indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians constitute a war crime.
“Russian President Putin and those responsible will be held to account.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the attack had “horrified” the world, while UN chief Antonio Guterres’s office said it was “totally deplorable.”
The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting in New York on Tuesday to discuss the attack, one of the worst strikes on a civilian target since the invasion began. On the 16th of March, about 600 people were killed when Russian artillery struck a theatre in Mariupol being used as an air raid shelter, and on the 8th of April a Russian missile hit a railway station in Kramatorsk, killing 59.
Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Irina Venediktova, arrived at the scene of the destroyed mall on Tuesday with a group of investigators to gather evidence on what she described as a crime against humanity.
Ukrainian air force officials said the shopping centre was struck by two long-range missiles fired from bombers that had flown from an airfield in Russia’s Kaluga region.
Russia has denied targeting civilians, with its defence ministry claiming on Telegram on Tuesday that it had struck a weapons depot in Kremenchuk, which had exploded and ignited a fire in the mall.
Russia’s defence ministry on Tuesday said it had fired missiles at a weapons depot in Kremenchuk, with the subsequent explosion of ammunition triggering a fire in a nearby shopping centre.
Earlier, Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, had given a conflicting account, posting on Twitter that the attack was a “Ukrainian provocation,” designed to keep the Russian invasion front of mind ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid starting Tuesday.