Russia fired a series of rockets at a shopping center in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, on Monday, raising fears that Russia is stepping up its attacks on civilian structures regardless of the loss of life.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday there were more than a thousand civilians inside the shopping mall and the casualties to come might bring even more shock and horror to Ukrainian people already confronting so much death and destruction as Russia has been waging war in Ukraine for 124 days.
“The number of victims is impossible to imagine,” Zelensky said on Telegram. “The mall is on fire, rescuers are fighting the fire.”
Authorities have reported 10 people killed in the attack so far, according to the chairman of the Poltava oblast, Dmitry Lunin. Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, said they have documented 20 injured.
Videos from the scene that a member of Ukrainian parliament shared show smoke billowing out from the shopping center and fires raging skyward.
The walls of the structure were beginning to fall in shortly after the missile struck the building, according to one witness sharing footage from the scene.
Rescuers attempting to reach civilians were confronted with a wall of smoke, according to footage from the rescue mission shared by NEXTA TV.
It’s just the latest example of Russian forces targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure that have no strategic importance to fighting a war with Ukraine. In the early days of the war, Putin attacked a maternity hospital. Just Monday the adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, Petro Andriushchenko, said that more than 100 bodies of dead civilians are near the rubble of a destroyed residential building in Mariupol. In the last several days, Russian shelling has also hit residential buildings in the Odesa region, according to Operational Command South.
The prosecutor General’s Office said Monday since the outbreak of the war, Russian troops have committed more than 19,700 crimes against Ukraine and its citizens.
Moscow has previously claimed that is hasn’t been targeting civilians in the war.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs said the incident is a reminder that Ukraine needs more weapons to help confront the menace of war with Russia.“We need weapons to protect ourselves and modern air defense systems,” Gerashchenko said.
As some worry that American attention to the war in Ukraine is fading, the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, said this is a stark reminder that the United States and allies can continue to try to punish the Russian government as Putin’s forces continue to commit war crimes in Ukraine.“Yet another war crime by [R]ussian murderers in Ukraine in this cruel war. We all have to #StopRussiaNow,” Markarova said.
The attack comes just a day after Russian forces launched missile attacks on both Kyiv and Kharkiv. Russia carried out approximately 60 strikes over the weekend, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters on a call Monday. The flurry of escalation in central Ukrainian cities is raising concerns that Russia’s war has not shifted permanently to the east and that instead, Putin is capable of ramping up attacks throughout the country.
Earlier this month the United States’ Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Michael Carpenter, told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview the current U.S. assessment is that Putin still has plans to try taking all of Ukraine.