A Russian missile strike reduced Kyiv’s Retroville shopping mall to a smoldering ruin, killing at least eight people in one of the most powerful explosions yet seen in the capital.
The strike occurred in the northern part of Kyiv around 11 p.m. on March 20, flattening one part of the mall and turning the parking lot into a sea of flames. The explosion blew debris of the shopping complex a long distance away in every direction.
The State Emergency Service said shortly after the explosion that 63 firefighters worked to extinguish the flames that had reached the third and fourth floor of the mall.
In the early hours of March 21, firefighters were still battling flame pockets as the soldiers and emergency workers searched through the rubble to look for any survivors or casualties. The rescuers pulled out six bodies by 8 a.m.
A soldier working at the scene told the New York Times that body parts were scattered around the wreckage.
The explosion hit a residential area in the Podil district, located about 10 kilometers from the center. The blast shook buildings in the capital while also breaking windows of nearby apartments. Vehicles parked in the vicinity of the attack were also damaged.
Prosecutor General Iryna Venedictova said the death toll counting eight people was based on preliminary information, suggesting that the number of casualties could rise.
One of the victims is an employee working at Leroy Merlin, the French home retailer said.
Following the news, the Ukrainian branch of Leroy Merlin called on the public to sign a petition demanding that its headquarters pulls out of Russia.
Leroy Merlin and its managing company Mulliez are among the biggest taxpayers in Russia, former Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and businessman Dmytro Dubilet said.
Pressure has been mounting on French brands under Mulliez company including Leroy Merlin and Auchan to join over 400 companies that withdrew from Russia following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Despite the public backlash defacing or digitally altering the brand's advertisement and logos, in one of which its name was changed from Leroy Merlin to “Leroy Kremlin,” the home retailer continues its sales and activities in Russia.
“Today, Leroy Merlin Ukraine was directly touched by the tragedy,” the company's staff wrote. “And a destroyed shop is nothing compared to the lives of colleagues lost. We will always remember.”