Human Lives Human Rights: Two Russian missiles have hit a crowded shopping centre in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk, killing at least 16 people and wounding 59, according to emergency services.
The attack on Monday caused a huge fire and sent dark smoke billowing into the sky, footage circulated by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy showed.
The Ukrainian leader called the attack “one of the most daring terrorist attacks in European history” and said that many of the more than 1,000 afternoon shoppers and staff inside the mall had managed to escape.
Dmytro Lunin, governor of the central Poltava region, wrote on Telegram that more bodies were likely to be found as rescue workers search through the smouldering rubble.
“It’s an act of terrorism against civilians,” he said, suggesting there was no military target nearby that Russia could have been aiming at.
Aerial photos showed the structure reduced to twisted metal, with workers combing through growing piles of rubble.
Rescue workers and 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. Clouds of dark smoke still emanated from the ruins several hours after the fire had been put out.
“We don’t understand how many people could be remaining under the rubble,” the regional rescue service chief said on television.
Zelenskyy said the shopping centre 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”.
“Russia continues to take out its impotence on ordinary civilians. It is useless to hope for decency and humanity on its part,” he said.
The attack prompted condemnations from Ukrainian officials across the board, including foreign minster Dmytro Kuleba, who called for more heavy weaponry to be sent to Ukraine and further sanctions on Russia.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s office condemned the attack as “totally deplorable”.
Kremenchuk had so far been spared direct hits in the conflict, Guterres spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at a daily press briefing.
“Any attack that hits a shopping mall is totally deplorable,” the UN official said.
“We once again stress that the parties are obliged under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure,” he added.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the attack on the mall demonstrates the “depths of cruelty and barbarism” of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
But Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyanskiy, wrote on Twitter, without citing evidence, that the attack was a “Ukrainian provocation”.
“Exactly what Kiev regime needs to keep focus of attention on Ukraine before (the) NATO Summit,” he said, referring to the alliance’s Madrid gathering due to begin on Tuesday.
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