Shopping centre in Ukraine with 1,000 people inside hit in Russian missile strike

27 June 2022, 15:39 | Updated: 28 June 2022, 00:12

By Emma Soteriou

Russian missiles have hit a shopping centre in Kremenchuk with 1,000 civilians inside, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.

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He warned the number of victims would be "impossible to imagine" and spoke of his horror that Russia would attack something that posed no strategic value in the war.

A rescue operation was under way as emergency workers battle a blaze that broke out after the strike.

At least 16 people have been killed and 59 injured in the attack.

G7 leaders called it a war crime, a description echoed by regional head Dmytro Lunin, who called Russia a "terrorist state", while Boris Johnson condemned Vladimir Putin's "cruelty and barbarism".

Mr Zelenskyy said in an update on messaging app Telegram: "[The shopping centre] is on fire, and rescue workers are trying to put out the fire, the number of victims is impossible to imagine.

"It posed no threat to the Russian army. No strategic value. People only wanted to live a normal life, which is what angers the occupiers so much.

"Out of helplessness, Russia continues to hit ordinary people. It is vain to expect it to be reasonable or humane."

Read more: Putin suffering 'grave' illnesses and will be dead in two years, Ukraine spy chief claims

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Ukrainian firefighter extinguish a fire caused by Russian attacks on the shopping mall
Ukrainian firefighter extinguish a fire caused by Russian attacks on the shopping mall. Picture: Getty
Missiles struck the shopping centre in Kremenchuk
Missiles struck the shopping centre in Kremenchuk. Picture: Google Maps

The G7 leaders said: "We, the leaders of the G7, solemnly condemn the abominable attack on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk.

"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.

"Today, we underlined our unwavering support for Ukraine in the face of the Russian aggression, an unjustified war of choice that has been raging for 124 days."

They said they would "continue to provide financial, humanitarian as well as military support for Ukraine, for as long as it takes".

"We will not rest until Russia ends its cruel and senseless war on Ukraine."

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a former prime minister of Ukraine who now chairs the Kyiv Security Forum, told LBC's Tonight With Andrew Marr it was "another barbaric act committed personally by Putin and his so-called military".

He said it was a "similar tactic Putin applied in Grozny in Chechnya, in Syria… he is killing innocent Ukrainians, he is shelling everywhere, he is trying to scare everyone".

Mr Yatsenyuk warned Putin could try to "freeze" Ukraine in the coming winter by attacking energy infrastructure and added "the biggest question I have is how to bring Putin to justice".

Russian forces hit a shopping center in Kremenchuk
Russian forces hit a shopping center in Kremenchuk. Picture: Getty

The city's mayor, Vitaliy Meletskiy, said in a Facebook post that the strike hit a "very crowded" place and that he was at the scene.

"This appalling attack has shown once again the depths of cruelty and barbarism to which the Russian leader will sink," Boris Johnson said at the G7 summit in Germany.

"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 the Ukraine for as long as it takes."

Rockets struck the centre at about 3.50pm (UK time), Kremenchuk officials said, and a fire broke out, covering a 10,000 sq m area.

Mr Lunin claimed Russia had committed a "war crime" by carrying out the attack, calling the country a "terrorist state".

He said on Telegram: "A missile strike on a shopping mall with people in Kremenchug is another Russian war crime. A crime against humanity.

"This is an open and cynical act of terror against the civilian population. Russia is a terrorist state."

Footage shared on social media showed plumes of smoke surrounding the building which remains engulfed in flames.

Emergency services are on the scene, with a fire engine and several firefighters visible in clips.

The United Nations spoke out about the attack, saying: "It is deplorable, to say the least."

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric added: "Any sort of civilian infrastructure, which includes obviously shopping malls, and civilians should never ever be targeted."

More than 1,000 civilians were in the building
More than 1,000 civilians were in the building. Picture: Getty

Kremenchuk is the site of Ukraine's biggest oil refinery, lying on the Dnipro river in the region of Poltava.

The city in eastern Ukraine had a population of 217,000 before Russia's invasion.

There was no immediate comment from Russia, which denies deliberately targeting civilians.