Dozens of people were still missing after a Russian missile strike hit a crowded shopping mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk, killing at least 18 people, as fighting continued for control of Lysychansk, the latest Ukrainian stronghold in the eastern region of Luhansk.
Authorities said at least 36 people remained missing as rescuers continued their frantic search through the rubble after the June 27 strike that occurred when more than 1,000 people were inside the mall.
Regional Governor Dmytro Lunyn said the mall was “completely destroyed” by the missile strike, which Ukraine blamed on Russia, saying air-to-surface missiles fired by Tu-22 long-range bombers had been used.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on June 28 that Russia should be called a “state sponsor of terrorism” after the missile strike.
“Only insane terrorists, who should have no place on Earth, can fire missiles at civilian objects…Russia must be recognized as a state sponsor of terrorism,” Zelenskiy said. said on his Telegram channel.
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On June 28, the Russian Defense Ministry denied targeting the mall, saying the missiles had been fired at an arms depot in Kremenchuk and that exploding ammunition stockpiles sparked the deadly blaze.
“As a result of a high-precision strike, Western-made weapons and ammunition concentrated in the storage area for further shipment to the Ukrainian group of troops in Donbass were hit,” the ministry said in a statement. . statement.
He also falsely claimed that the mall “didn’t work”.
Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) countries pledged on the final day of a summit in Germany to support Kyiv “as long as it takes” as the war continues.
“We agree that (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin should not win this war, and we will continue to maintain and increase the economic and political costs for President Putin and his regime,” he said. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at a press conference. conference.
“For this, it is important to remain united, including in the long term which we are certainly still facing.”
Russia also shelled Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, hitting apartment buildings and a primary school, the regional governor said. The bombing killed five people and injured 22, including children, the governor said.
Regional military administration chief Serhiy Hayday said Ukrainian forces still controlled Lysychansk, but Russian rockets killed at least eight people and injured more than 20 in an area where a crowd gathered to get water from a tank.
Hayday added that Ukrainian defenders will try to hold the line against invaders to the east as they seek to buy time until Western weapons arrive.
West of Lysychansk, the mayor of the city of Sloviansk said Russian forces fired cluster munitions, including one that hit a residential area. Authorities said the number of casualties has not yet been confirmed.
Separately, Zelenskiy said he told NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg that his country needed missile defense systems to prevent Russian attacks.
The British Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence newsletter on June 28, Ukrainian forces continued to consolidate their positions on higher ground at Lysychansk, having abandoned its twin town, Syevyerodonetsk, to the Russians.
The bulletin indicates that Ukrainian forces continued to disrupt Russian command and control with successful strikes deep behind Russian lines.
British intelligence said Russian forces in the Donbass are increasingly “emptied” and their combat effectiveness has deteriorated, a situation “probably unsustainable” in the long term.
In the aftermath of the Kremenchuk strike, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Russia of being the “biggest terrorist organization in the world” in a video on Telegram.
“Everyone in the world should know that buying or transporting Russian oil, maintaining ties with Russian banks, paying taxes and duties to the Russian state is giving money to terrorists,” did he declare.
Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, Russia has repeatedly asserted that it was not targeting civilians in the unprovoked war it launched against Ukraine just over four months ago.
G7 leaders called the missile strike a war crime and vowed to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable.
Kremenchuk, an industrial city of just over 200,000, sits on the Dnipro River in the Poltava region and is the site of Ukraine’s largest oil refinery.