KREMENCHUK, Ukraine: Firefighters and soldiers searched on Tuesday for survivors in the rubble of a shopping mall in central Ukraine after a Russian missile strike killed at least 18 people in an attack condemned by the United Nations and the West.
Family members of the missing lined up at a hotel across the street where rescue workers set up a base after Monday’s strike on the busy mall in Kremenchuk, in the region of Poltava, southeast of Kyiv.
More than 1,000 people were inside when two Russian missiles slammed into the mall, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said. At least 18 people were killed and 25 hospitalized, while about 36 were missing, said Dmytro Lunin, governor of Poltava.
Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) major democracies, at a summit in Germany, said the attack was “abominable.”
“Russian President Putin and those responsible will be held to account,” they said in a joint statement.
Zelensky said in a Monday evening video address that it was “not an accidental hit, this is a calculated Russian strike exactly onto this shopping center.”
A survivor receiving treatment at Kremenchuk’s public hospital, Ludmyla Mykhailets, 43, said she was shopping with her husband when the blast threw her into the air.
“I flew head first and splinters hit my body. The whole place was collapsing,” she said.
“It was hell,” added her husband, Mykola, 45, blood seeping through a bandage around his head.
Russia has not commented on the strike but its deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyanskiy, accused Ukraine of using the incident to gain sympathy ahead of a June 28-30 summit of the NATO military alliance.
“One should wait for what our Ministry of Defense will say, but there are too many striking discrepancies already,” Polyanskiy wrote on Twitter.
The UN Security Council will meet on Tuesday at Ukraine’s request following the attack. UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the missile strike was deplorable.
Elsewhere on the battlefield, Ukraine endured another difficult day following the loss of the now-ruined city of Sievierodonetsk after weeks of bombardment and street fighting.
Russian artillery pounded Lysychansk, Sievierodonetsk’s twin city across the Siverskyi Donets River.
Lysychansk is the last big city held by Ukraine in eastern Luhansk province, a main target for the Kremlin after Russian troops failed to take the capital, Kyiv, early in the war.
Rodion Miroshnik, the ambassador to Moscow of the separatist Luhansk People’s Republic, said Russian troops and their Luhansk Republic allies were advancing westward into Lysychansk and street battles had erupted around the city’s stadium.
Fighting was going on in several villages around the city, and Russian and allied troops had entered the Lysychansk oil refinery where Ukrainian troops were concentrated, Miroshnik said on his Telegram channel.