Two Russian missiles hit a crowded shopping centre on Monday in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk, killing at least 16 people and wounding 59, according to emergency services.
The attack caused a huge fire and sent dark smoke billowing into the sky, footage circulated by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy showed.
The Ukrainian leader called the attack “one of the most daring terrorist attacks in European history” and said that many of the more than 1,000 afternoon shoppers and staff inside the mall had managed to escape.
Zelenskyy said the shopping centre presented “no threat to the Russian army” and had “no strategic value”. He accused Russia of sabotaging “people’s attempts to live a normal life, which make the occupiers so angry”.
“Russia continues to take out its impotence on ordinary civilians. It is useless to hope for decency and humanity on its part,” he said.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the attack on the mall demonstrates the “depths of cruelty and barbarism” of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
“Putin must realise that his behaviour will do nothing but strengthen the resolve that the UK and every other G7 country stand by the Ukraine for as long as it takes,” he said.
Rescue workers and soldiers worked into the night to lug sheets of twisted metal and broken concrete, as one drilled into what remained of the shopping center’s roof. Clouds of dark smoke still emanated from the ruins several hours after the fire had been put out.
“We don’t understand how many people could be remaining under the rubble,” the regional rescue service chief said on television.
Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyanskiy, wrote on Twitter, without citing evidence, that the attack was a “Ukrainian provocation”.