Russian missiles struck a crowded shopping center in the Poltava Oblast that was filled with some 1,000 civilians, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.
Footage shared by Zelensky from the scene in the city of Kremenchuk showed orange flames and clouds of thick black smoke pouring out of the strip mall, with onlookers and firefighters standing outside.
“The invaders hit the mall where there were more than 1,000 civilians … the number of victims cannot even be imagined,” Ukraine’s leader wrote on social media. “(It) posed no danger to the Russian army, not a single strategic value.”
Zelensky added: “Russia continues to take out its impotence on ordinary citizens. Hoping for common sense and humanity on Russia’s part is useless.”
Senior Ukrainian officials later said the rocket strike killed at least two people and wounded 20 others.
A rescue operation was underway and nine of the wounded were in serious condition, said Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the presidential office.
The State Emergency Service of Ukraine said 115 firefighters from 20 units were looking for survivors and working to extinguish the huge blaze sparked by the missile blast.
Kremenchuk, an industrial city of 217,000 before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, lies on the Dnipro river in the region of Poltava and is the site of Ukraine’s biggest oil refinery.
There was no immediate comment from Russia, which has consistently denied deliberately targeting civilian targets as part of what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
The attack came as Russia was mounting an all-out assault on the last Ukrainian stronghold in the eastern Luhansk region, “pouring fire” on the city of Lysychansk from the ground and air, according to the local governor.
Zelensky’s office said at least six civilians were killed and 31 others injured as part of intense Russian shelling against various Ukrainian cities over the past 24 hours — including Kyiv and major cities in the country’s south and east but not counting the latest attack in Kremenchuk.
During a G7 meeting in Germany earlier in the day Monday, world leaders pledged to continue supporting Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”
Addressing the summit via video link, Zelensky urged Western powers to send more air defense systems to Ukraine to protect the nation from Russian long-range missiles.
The US appeared set to announce the purchase of an advanced surface-to-air missile system for Ukraine.
With Post wires