KREMENCHUK, June 27 - Russian long-range bombers fired a missile that struck a crowded shopping mall in Ukraine’s central city of Kremenchuk on Monday, raising fears of what President Volodymyr Zelensky called an “unimaginable” number of victims in “one of the most daring terrorist attacks in European history.”
Zelensky said more than 1,000 civilians were inside the mall, with many managing to escape. Images from the scene showed giant plumes of black smoke, dust and orange flames, with emergency crews rushing in to search broken metal and concrete for victims and put out fires. Onlookers watched in distress.
The casualty figures were difficult to determine as rescuers searched the smoldering rubble. The regional governor, Dmytro Lunin, said at least 13 people were dead and more than 40 wounded.
At Ukraine’s request, the U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting in New York on Monday evening to discuss the attack.
The missile strike unfolded as Western leaders pledged continued support for Ukraine, and the world’s major economies prepared new sanctions against Russia, including a price cap on oil and higher tariffs on goods. Meanwhile, the U.S. appeared ready to respond to Zelensky’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.
Zelensky said the mall 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.”
In his nightly address, he said it appeared Russian forces had intentionally targeted the shopping center and added, “Today’s Russian strike at a shopping mall in Kremenchuk is one of the most daring terrorist attacks in European history.”
Russian Tu-22M3 long-range bombers flying over Russia’s western Kursk region fired the missile that hit the shopping center, as well as another that hit a sports arena in Kremenchuk, according to Ukrainian officials.
The Russian strike carried echoes of attacks earlier in the war that caused large numbers of civilian casualties — such as one in March on a Mariupol theater where many civilians had holed up, killing an estimated 600, and another in April on a train station in eastern Kramatorsk that left at least 59 people dead.
“Russia continues to take out its impotence on ordinary civilians. It is useless to hope for decency and humanity on its part,” Zelensky said.
Kremenchuk Mayor Vitaliy Maletskiy wrote on Facebook that the attack “hit a very crowded area, which is 100% certain not to have any links to the armed forces.”
The United Nations called the strike “deplorable,” stressing that civilian infrastructure “should never ever be targeted,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. Group of Seven leaders issued a statement late Monday condemning the attack and saying that “indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians constitute a war crime. Russian President Putin and those responsible will be held to account.” (ap/ez)