Kremenchuk shopping centre strike death toll rises to 18

Death toll from ‘war crime’ Russian bombing of packed Ukrainian mall rises to at least 18 as hopes of finding survivors fade and Boris Johnson condemns Putin’s ‘barbarism’

  • Death toll from Russian missile strike on Ukrainian shopping centre has risen to 18, with up to 60 in hospital 
  • Unknown number of people are missing after Amstor mall was blown up while 1,000 people were inside 
  • Emergency crews are sifting through the rubble and say there is little hope of finding any more survivors 
  • G7 leaders condemned Russia’s ‘war crime’ while Zelensky branded it a ‘brazen terrorist attack’ and Boris Johnson said it shows ‘the depths of cruelty and barbarism to which [Putin] will sink’

The death toll from Russia’s missile strike on a packed shopping centre in Ukraine has risen to at least 18 today as emergency crews sift through the rubble but warn there is little chance of finding anyone else alive.

The Amstor shopping mall in the city of Kremenchuk, located in central Ukraine at least 100 miles from the closest frontline, was blown up Monday afternoon while an estimated 1,000 people were inside by what Kyiv says was two Russian AS-4 guided missiles, Soviet-era weapons originally designed to take out US aircraft carriers.

At least 60 people were wounded in the attack including 25 who are in hospital with an unknown number now missing. The strike sparked an inferno which gutted the building and caused most of the roof to collapse, with firefighters working through the night to extinguish the blaze.

As the sun rose on Tuesday the fire was out but the ruins were still smoking, with crews now combing it for bodies. Desperate families whose loved ones were working at or visiting the mall as it was struck turned to social media to try and find them, amid warnings there is little hope that anyone trapped in the blaze could have survived.

Condemnation was swift with G7 leaders meeting in Germany branding the strike a ‘war crime’, President Volodymyr Zelensky condemning what he called a ‘brazen terrorist attack’ and Boris Johnson saying it shows ‘the depths of cruelty and barbarism to which [Putin] will sink.’

Further reprimand is almost certain to follow, as the UN Security Council convenes this morning to discuss the strike which is also likely to be raised at a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Spain later today.

Smoke rises from the ruins of the Amstor shopping mall in the city of Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, after it was struck by long-range guided missiles that Ukraine says were fired by Russian bombers

Russian missiles have hit a busy shopping centre in the city of Kremenchuk in Ukraine

Among those reported as missing in the havoc are Tatyana Brigadirenko, who worked at the Amstor shopping mall. Her boyfriend Ihor Ivakhnenko is desperately searching for her.

Oksana Poshtarenko, born in 1992, was at work at household appliances store Comfy and has not been seen since.

Relatives of two more Comfy workers, Yuri Mikitenko and Daniil Sidorov, born in 1996, say they have been out of contact since the strike.

A desperate message reads: “His wife and son are searching for him. He has not been in touch since then.

“Maybe some will recognise him, we hope he is alive.”

Other missing Comfy store workers are Konstantin Vozniy, who relatives say has tattoos on his left arm and chest, and Nikolay Krychkov.

The husband and mother of Comfy staff member Elena Poliakova were desperately seeking the missing woman.

Another Amstor employee Sofia Vinnik, 21, was known to have been at work and not heard of since.

Zelensky said in a Telegram post that the number of victims was ‘unimaginable,’ citing reports that more than 1,000 civilians were inside at the time of the attack.

‘The Russian strike today on the shopping centre in Kremenchuk is one of the most brazen terrorist acts in European history,’ he said in his evening broadcast posted on Telegram. 

Images from the scene showed giant plumes of black smoke from a shopping center engulfed in flames, as emergency crews rushed in and onlookers watched in distress.

Zelensky said the target presented ‘no threat to the Russian army’ and had ‘no strategic value.’ He accused of Russia of sabotaging ‘people’s attempts to live a normal life, which make the occupiers so angry.’

Boris Johnson condemned Vladimir Putin’s ‘cruelty and barbarism’, speaking on the day Zelensky addressed the G7 summit to urge G7 leaders to supply missile defence systems, and said it would strengthen the resolve of allies to resist Putin.

Mr Johnson said: ‘This appalling attack has shown once again the depths of cruelty and barbarism to which the Russian leader will sink.

‘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.’

Earlier, the Prime Minister said the ‘price of freedom is worth paying’ and the UK must be prepared to support Ukraine’s fight against Russia for as long as it takes despite the cost.

Tatyana Brigadirenko (right), who worked inside the Amstor mall, was reported missing by boyfriend Ihor Ivakhnenko (left) who posted on social media searching for her

Oksana Poshtarenko, 29 (left), and Elena Poliakova (right), both workers who were inside the Amstor mall when it was hit by the missiles, were reported missing on social media

Sofia Vinnik, 21 (left), was a worker at the Amstor mall who is now missing, while Anna Vovnenk (right) was visiting the shopping centre with her mother at the time of the attack. She is now missing, while her mum is in hospital

Olga Pavlenko (left) was visiting the Amstor mall when it was blown up by Russian missiles, with loved ones now appealing for news about her on social media

Ruslan Mykolenko, 26 (left), has been reported missing following the mall blast along with 23-year-old Vyacheslav Demidov (right), who had been inside at the time of the attack

Nikolay Krychkov (left) and Yuri Mikitenko (right) were both working inside the Amstor mall when it was hit by two Russian missiles, and are now missing

Evgeny Gritsai, 28, was reported missing by loved ones scouring social media for news of his whereabouts following the missile strike in Kremenchuk yesterday

Alyona Velichko, 44 (left), had been going to meet someone at the Amstor mall when it was hit by the missile and is now missing, while another family appealed for news of their 50-year-old mother (right), who they did not name

The conflict in Ukraine has added to the rising cost of living by exacerbating turbulence in international energy prices and causing food shortages due to supplies of grain being prevented from leaving the country’s ports by Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

But speaking at the G7 summit in Germany, Mr Johnson said those pressures will start to ease and the long-term economic impact of defending the rules-based system of international conduct will be beneficial to the global economy.

In footage taken from inside the shopping centre, a male voice is heard shouting: ‘Is anyone alive? Anyone alive here?’

If Putin is not resisted, it could give the green light to countries such as China to pursue their own goals of territorial expansion, he suggested.

The UK has so far contributed around £1.5 billion of economic and humanitarian support to Ukraine plus some £1.3 billion of military assistance.

The Prime Minister told the BBC at the summit in the Bavarian Alps: ‘I think that the economic impacts on the UK will start to abate, we’ll find ways around things and some of the cost pressures will start to come down.

‘But just in terms of staying the course, imagine if you didn’t.

‘Imagine if we allowed Putin to get away with the violent acquisition of huge chunks of another country, a sovereign, independent territory, the lessons for that would be absolutely chilling in all of the countries of the former Soviet Union, you can see what’s happening in the Baltic countries already.

‘But the read across would also be felt in east Asia, as well.

‘So, in terms of the economic effects of that, that would mean long-term instability, it would mean anxiety across the world.’

Comparing the situation to the defeat of Nazi Germany, Mr Johnson declined to put a limit on UK support.

‘The point I would make to people is, I think that sometimes the price of freedom is worth paying.

‘And just remember, it took the democracies, in the middle of the last century, a long time to recognise that they had to resist tyranny and aggression. It took them a long time, it was very expensive.

‘But what it bought in the end, with the defeat of the dictators, particularly of Nazi Germany, it bought decades and decades of stability, a world order that relied on a rules-based international system.

‘And that is worth protecting, that is worth defending, that delivers long-term prosperity.’

A rescue operation is under way and nine of the wounded are in a serious condition, said Ukrainian authorities.

A rescue operation is under way and at least nine of the wounded are in a serious condition after emergency services rushed to the scene

Firefighters desperately try to put out the blaze at the shopping mall after the missile strike was carried out in the industrial hub

Panicked survivors desperately tried to flee for safety as the complex erupted in fire, with plumes of black smoke billowing into the sky.

Putin’s war propagandist Andrey Rudenko has already predictably dismissed the brutal assault as a ‘fake’ operation carried out by Kyiv. Russia previously made the same outlandish claims about the atrocities in Bucha.

Volodymyr Zelensky said on Telegram: ‘It is impossible to even imagine the number of victims.

‘It’s useless to hope for decency and humanity from Russia.’

Zelensky stressed that the target presented ‘no threat to the Russian army’ and had ‘no strategic value’ accusing Russia of sabotaging ‘people’s attempts to live a normal life, which make the occupiers so angry’.

A man filming from outside then says: ‘This is it, the walls are collapsing.’

Dmytro Lunin, head of Poltava regional administration, said: ‘Missile strike on a shopping mall with people in Kremenchuk is yet another military crime by the Russians. A crime against humanity. This is an obvious, cynical act of terror against peaceful civilians. Russia is a terrorist state.

‘Rescuers and policemen are working at the site. The number of victims is impossible to count as of now.’

He said the death toll had risen from 10 to at least 13. 

Andrii Yermak, Head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, said: ‘They said they would be hitting centres of decision making.

‘But even the most sick imagination would not have guessed they mean shopping centres by this.

‘More than a 1000 civilians got wounded.’

City mayor Vitaliy Meletskiy said the strike had caused deaths and injuries, but gave no figures.

Kremenchuk is an industrial hub in central Ukraine, situated on the banks of the Dnipro River. 

The city, which had a population of 217,000 before Russia’s invasion, is the site of the country’s biggest oil refinery. 

Russia has claimed that the carnage was a staged ‘fake’ operation, with TV war reporter Andrey Rudenko claiming: ‘These freaks are back to provocations.

‘The shopping mall in Kremenchuk, with allegedly thousands of people inside it. Videos show an empty car park with just a couple of cars.

‘Was this a working shopping centre, there would have been lots of cars. Were there people inside the centre, and were they to be wounded or killed, then there would be no way these cars would be cleared away.

‘There are no women by the shopping centre, though at this time of day shopping centres are filled with females. Yet we see mainly young men of similar age, and no panic.

‘They are all dressed in shorts, they don’t wear T-shirts. There is a feeling of a crowd of ‘extras’, similar to football fans or something like it.

‘Conclusion: there is a sense they set it up themselves, or shot it for a strong pictures. But they didn’t do it properly, again.’

It is just the latest strike carried out by Vladimir Putin’s forces against defenceless civilians in Ukraine, with hospitals, schools and homes destroyed throughout his savage invasion. 

Elsewhere, Russia is continuing to mount 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, the local governor said today.

Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai said Russian forces were pummelling Lysychansk after capturing the neighbouring city of Sievierodonetsk in recent days. 

It’s part of a stepped-up Russian offensive to wrest the broader Donbas region from Ukrainian government control in what Western experts say has become the new main goal of President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, now in its fifth month.

‘They’re pouring fire on the city both from the air and from the ground. After the takeover of Sevierodonetsk, the enemy army has concentrated all its forces on capturing (our) last stronghold in the Luhansk region: Lysychansk,’ Haidai told The Associated Press.

The Russians were trying to blockade the city from the south, ‘destroying everything that their artillery and multiple rocket launchers can reach,’ Haidai said. 

In recent weeks, Russian troops have captured several villages and towns southeast of Lysychansk, and were trying to halt access to the city from the south.

Meanwhile to the west, the mayor of the city of Sloviansk – potentially the next major battleground – said Russian forces fired cluster munitions on the city after dawn, including one that hit a residential neighbourhood.

Authorities say the number of dead and injured are still to be confirmed. The AP saw one fatality: A man’s body lay hunched over a car door frame, his blood pooling onto the ground from scattered chest and head wounds.

Ukraine forces have spent weeks consolidating their defences around Sloviansk out of concern that it could be the next big Russian target if Lysychansk falls.

Last week, Zelensky said Russia wanted to ‘capture and completely destroy’ Sloviansk.

The shockwave from Monday’s blast blew out most windows in the surrounding apartment blocks and the cars parked below, littering the ground with broken glass.

‘Everything is now destroyed. We are the only people left living in this part of the building. There is no power,’ said local resident Valentina Vitkovska, in tears as she spoke about the blast. ‘I can’t even call to tell others what had happened to us.’

Overall, Zelenskyy 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.

It said Russian forces fired rockets that killed two people and injured five overnight in and near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and continued to target the key southern port of Odesa. 

A missile attack destroyed residential buildings and injured six people, including a child, it said.

In Lysychansk, at least five high-rise buildings in the city and the last road bridge were damaged over the past day, Haidai, the governor, said. 

A crucial highway linking the city to government-held territory further south was rendered impassable because of shelling.

Such shelling is also making the evacuation of civilians increasingly difficult, Haidai said. The city had a pre-war population of around 100,000, approximately one-tenth of whom remain.

Source: Read Full Article