Two Russian missiles hit a shopping centre in Kremenchuk, a strategically important city in eastern Ukraine, where 1,000 people were present on Monday afternoon.
At least three people were killed and forty others were injured, but there are fears that the number of victims will increase. The emergency services are on the scene en masse.
More than a thousand people were present when the rockets hit the mall on Monday, according to the local government. The fear of many victims is great because the images of the impact leave nothing to the imagination: the building is ablaze, people flee and local journalists talk about “horrific scenes”.
According to local authorities, at least three people were killed and at least 40 injured in the rocket strikes. The fear is very great that the number of victims will rise sharply in the coming hours. According to social media reports, many people are still trapped in the mall, while the roof of the building is falling in many places and walls are falling over.
“It is futile to hope for the civilization and humanity of Russia. We cannot possibly predict the number of casualties,” President Volodimir Zelensky said not long after the impact. So says Dmitro Lunin, governor of the Poltava Oblast region. “The Russian occupiers fired a missile at a shopping centre where more than a thousand civilians were present at the time. The mall is on fire and rescuers are fighting the fire. This is a war crime.”
Kirilo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of President Zelensky’s cabinet, posted a video of the burning mall on Telegram. The images show a large plume of smoke, just like the fire brigade, who are present in large numbers. According to the civil defence, 115 firefighters with 20 fire engines are on site. Rescuers are searching for survivors under the rubble. “We have no idea how many people could still be lying there,” the chief of security services said on local television.
Vadim Denisenko, the adviser to the Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior, sees three possible motives. “The first, without a doubt, is panic. The second is destroying our infrastructure. And the third is to raise the stakes to convince the civilized West to sit down again.”
Ukraine has been defending itself against a Russian invasion for more than four months. The United Nations has so far counted more than 4,700 civilian casualties, but like the Ukrainian government, expects a much higher death toll. In recent days, Russia already seemed to be gearing up for airstrikes against Ukrainian targets, with more than 65 being carried out on Saturday and Sunday. That also happened in the capital Kyiv, where one person was killed.
It is also not the first time in the war that Kremenchuk has been the target of Russian air raids. An oil refinery, among other things, was destroyed, and other buildings also suffered considerable damage. The city has 217,000 inhabitants and is one of the most important industrial cities in Ukraine, right next to the Dnipro River.