He added: “Russia cannot and should not win.”
His comments came as rescuers searched the charred rubble of the mall, looking for more victims of what the president of Ukraine called “one of the most daring terrorist attacks in European history.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said there were more than 1,000 shoppers and workers in the shopping center in the city of Kremenchuk in the afternoon. Huge plumes of black smoke, dust and orange flames rose from the wreckage as emergency services combed through broken metal and concrete for victims. Drones buzzed overhead, clouds of dark smoke still emerged from the ruins hours after the fire was extinguished.
Victims took off as rescuers sifted through the smoldering rubble. Regional governor Dmytro Lunin said at least 18 people were killed and 59 others sought medical attention, 25 of whom were hospitalized. The region has declared a day of mourning for the victims of the attack on Tuesday.
“We are in the process of dismantling the structure so that it is possible to get machines in it, as the metal elements are very heavy and large, and it is impossible to disassemble them by hand,” said Volodymyr Hychkan, an official of the emergency services.
Ukraine’s Attorney General Iryna Venediktova, who leads the investigation into possible war crimes, said the missile attack was one of Russia’s “crimes against humanity”, noting that the Russian military is “systematically shelling civilian infrastructure with the aim of scaring people.” to kill people, to sow terror in our towns and villages.”
Venediktova stressed the need for Ukrainians across the country to remain vigilant, adding that they should expect a similar strike “every minute”.
Wayne Jordash, a British lawyer working with Venediktova’s office to investigate possible war crimes, rejected claims that a factory near the mall was a military object.
“The first indications are that the affected factory is a road construction factory and not a military target,” Jordash said. “We need to investigate if there are any military targets nearby, and the first indications, as I said, are that there are no military targets nearby.”
At Ukraine’s request, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting in New York on Tuesday to discuss the attack.
In the Russian government’s first comment about the missile attack, Dmitry Polyansky, the country’s first deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, alleged multiple inconsistencies that he failed to specify, claiming on Twitter that the incident was a provocation by Ukraine. Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilian infrastructure, although Russian attacks have hit other shopping malls, theaters, hospitals, kindergartens and apartment buildings in the four-month war.
On Tuesday, Russian troops attacked the Black Sea town of Ochakiv in the Mykolaiv region, damaging apartment buildings and killing two, including a 6-year-old child. Six more people, including four children, were injured. One of them, a 3-month-old baby, is in a coma, according to local officials.
The missile attack on Kremenchuk took place as Western leaders pledged to continue to support Ukraine and the world’s major economies prepared new sanctions against Russia, including a price cap on oil and higher tariffs on goods.
G-7 leaders condemned the attack in a statement late Monday, saying that “arbitrary attacks on innocent civilians constitute a war crime”, noting that “Russian President Putin and those responsible will be held accountable.”
The Russian attack repeated previous attacks that left large numbers of civilian casualties, such as one in March on a Mariupol theater where many civilians had been holed up, leaving an estimated 600 dead, and another in April on a train station in eastern Kramatorsk, which killed many civilians. at least life fell. 59 people.
Zelenskyy said the mall “posed no threat to the Russian military” and had “no strategic value”. He accused Russia of sabotaging “people’s attempts to live normal lives, which make the occupiers so angry”.
In his late-night speech, he said Russian forces had deliberately attacked the mall in “one of the most daring terrorist attacks in European history”, denouncing Russia as “the largest terrorist organization in the world”.
Russia has increasingly used long-range bombers during the war. Ukrainian officials said Russian Tu-22M3 long-range bombers flying over the western region of Kursk fired the missiles, one of which hit the shopping center and another a sports arena in Kremenchuk.
The US seemed ready to respond to Zelenskyy’s call for more air defense systems, and NATO planned to increase the size of its rapid reaction forces nearly eightfold – to 300,000 troops.
The attack on Kremenchuk coincided with Russia’s all-out assault on the last Ukrainian stronghold in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk province, which, according to the local governor, had seen the city of Lysychansk “fired from the ground and from the air”. At least eight people were killed and more than 20 injured in Lysychansk when Russian missiles hit an area where crowds gathered to get water from a tank, Luhansk government leader Serhiy Haidai said.
The barrage was part of an intensified offensive by Russian forces to wrest the eastern Donbas region from Ukraine. Over the weekend, the Russian army and their local separatist allies evicted Ukrainian government forces from Lysychansk’s neighboring city, Sievierodonetsk.
West of Lysychansk, the mayor of the city of Sloviansk — possibly the next major battlefield — said Russian troops fired cluster munitions, including one that hit a residential area. The number of victims has yet to be confirmed, authorities said. The Associated Press saw one fatality: A man’s body lay hunched over a car door frame, his blood streaming on the floor from chest and head wounds. The blast blew out most of the windows in the surrounding apartment buildings and the cars parked below, strewn with broken glass.
“Everything is now destroyed,” resident Valentina Vitkovska said, tearfully as she spoke of the blast. “We are the only people who still live in this part of the building. There is no power. I can’t even call to tell others what happened to us.”
Karmanau reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Oleksandr Stashevskyi in Kiev, Ukraine, contributed to this report.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine