A Russian missile strike hit a shopping mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk late in the afternoon on June 27, killing at least 20 people and injuring 59 others, Deputy Head of the President's Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko reported.
Head of State Emergency Services Serhiy Kruk said that 25 of the wounded had been hospitalized. The area of the fire reached 10,300 square meters, according to the state agency.
About 36 people were missing after the attack, according to Poltava Oblast Governor Dmytro Lunin.
Following the attack, President Volodymyr Zelensky said there were more than 1,000 people inside, and "the number of victims is unimaginable." He later corrected himself, explaining that there were initially more than 1,000 people in the mall but many managed to get out on time before the missiles hit thanks to the air raid sirens.
"It's useless to hope for decency and humanity from Russia," Zelensky said in a Telegram post.
Located a few hundred kilometers away from the frontlines in eastern and southern Ukraine, relative peace has prevailed in Poltava Oblast throughout Russia’s full-scale war. Before the June 27 attack, two people were killed and more than seven people were injured in the region since Feb. 24, according to the Poltava Oblast Military Administration.
Ukraine's Air Force reported that the missiles that hit the shopping center were launched from Russia's Kursk Oblast.
Russia's attack on the mall will be investigated thoroughly in order for it to be potentially considered a war crime at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, Prosecutor General of Ukraine Iryna Venediktova said.
Following the missile strike, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement at the G7 gathering in Munich that the attack once again shows Russian dictator Vladimir Putin's "depth of cruelty and barbarism."
While emphasizing that Putin "must realize that his behavior will do nothing but strengthen the resolve of the U.K. and every other G7 country to stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes," Johnson reiterated that "our thoughts are with the families of the innocent victims of Ukraine."
Other Western leaders have also reacted to the latest attack on Kremenchuk, with U.S. President Joe Biden condemning it as "cruel" and French President Emanuel Macron saying that it is "an abomination."
“Indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians constitute a war crime,” a joint statement released by the G7 leaders said. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the world was “horrified," while UN Chief Antonio Guterres’s office denounced the attack as “totally deplorable."
In his evening address, Zelensky said that the Russian strike on the mall was deliberate, calling it "one of the most daring terrorist acts in European history." "The Russian state has become the largest terrorist organization in the world," the president said.
During the past few days, Russia has scaled up its missile strikes hitting both civilian and military targets all across Ukraine.
The weekend started with an early morning Saturday attack, during which dozens of Russian cruise missiles struck military facilities in western and northern Ukraine on June 25, according to local authorities. The missiles came from across the Belarusian border and from the Black Sea, according to reports.
On June 26, Russia launched missiles at Kyiv for the first time in nearly three weeks, hitting a residential building and a kindergarten. The attack killed one person and injured six others, including a seven-year-old child, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
Later on Sunday, Russian missiles also hit an area near Cherkasy in central Ukraine, killing one resident and injuring five others, Cherkasy Oblast Governor Ihor Taburets reported.
As Russia continues to wage war in Ukraine, Zelensky told G7 leaders during a virtual speech that he wants the war to be over by the end of the year, AFP and Le Monde reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.
Hours before the attack on a Kremenchuk shopping mall, Zelensky reportedly said in his speech that the leaders should help end the war before winter comes and that conditions for his troops are becoming tougher. Zelensky urged allies to keep up the pressure and “intensify sanctions” on Russia.