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Russian missiles hit crowded shopping centre

2022-06-28 HKT 03:27
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  • Rescuers search the rubble of a mall in the city of Kremenchuk. Photo: AFP
    Rescuers search the rubble of a mall in the city of Kremenchuk. Photo: AFP
Russia's defence ministry on Tuesday denied hitting a shopping mall in the Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk with missiles, saying it had struck a weapons depot and a subsequent explosion of ammunition had triggered a fire in the nearby mall.

At least 18 people were killed on Monday in what Kyiv said was a direct Russian missile strike against the busy shopping centre in Kremenchuk. The G7 called the hit a Russian war crime, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said it was "one of the most defiant terrorist attacks in European history," accusing Russia of directly targeting civilians.

Moscow on Tuesday rejected those accounts, saying it had hit a legitimate military target in the city, and that the shopping centre was not in use.

"In Kremenchuk, Russian forces struck a weapons depot storing arms received from the United States and Europe with high-precision air-based weapons. As a result of the precision strike, Western-made weapons and ammunition concentrated in the warehouse... were hit," Moscow's defence ministry said in a statement posted on its Telegram channel.

"The detonation of stored ammunition for Western weapons caused a fire in a non-functioning shopping centre located next to the depot," it added.

Ukraine said the shopping centre was hit directly by Russian missiles, and around 1,000 people were inside at the time of the strike.

Rescue efforts continued on Tuesday to recover survivors and bodies, with dozens reported injured and hospitalised.

"It could be a mistake but I think that is very unlikely. It seems to have been a deliberate attack to coincide with the G7 meeting, basically to remind the G7 members what Russia is capable of and willing to do," Paul Rogers, professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University in the UK, told RTHK.

"The Russians are to some extent on the defensive at present. They’ve had to consolidate in the Donbas region and the only way they can go after Ukraine more generally is with longer range missile strikes. And this is what appeared to have happened."

Kremenchuk, an industrial city of 217,000 before Russia's military campaign began, lies on the Dnipro River in the region of Poltava and is the site of Ukraine's biggest oil refinery.

Ukraine has reported a sharp escalation in Russian attacks in recent days. On Sunday, a residential building in the capital Kyiv was hit in the first attack on the capital since early June. Alongside the shopping centre, Ukraine said Russian missiles also hit the eastern cities of Kharkiv and Lysychansk on Monday in one of the bloodiest days for civilian casualties in weeks.

"As it happens, Nato or the United States had already announced it was going to provide much more effective anti-aircraft defences for Ukraine but the reality is if Nato was to encourage Ukraine to go further and hit back within Russia, then you will get an even greater escalation," Rogers said.

"And behind the scenes what is worrying the people who really think about these things on the political side is that neither side can win this war but neither side can lose it." (RTHK/Reuters)
Last updated: 2022-06-28 HKT 18:13